Howard Kurtzman Sets Retirement as Carolyn Cassidy Named Lone 20th TV President

The longtime head of business operations for the now Disney-owned studio will call it a career in June.
Courtesy of 20th TV
Howard Kurtzman, Carolyn Cassidy

It's the end of an era at 20th Century Fox Television.

Howard Kurtzman, the longtime president of business operations at the now Disney-owned studio, is set to retire in June, with Carolyn Cassidy named the lone president at 20th TV. A new head of business affairs, who will report directly to Cassidy, will be announced shortly.

“Two years ago, Howard came to Gary Newman and me to say he had decided it was time to retire,” Disney TV Studios and ABC Entertainment chairman Dana Walden said Tuesday in a statement. “We begged him to stay for a year, as we were not ready to consider what the studio would look like without his leadership. One year later, Craig [Hunegs] and I asked (begged) him to postpone his retirement by yet another year — this time to help coordinate the integration of 20th Century Fox Television into The Walt Disney Co. — and he graciously agreed. Howard is an extraordinary leader, strategist, colleague and friend. Working with him has been one of the true highlights of my career and that is a sentiment which is shared by every executive, creator and representative who has interacted with him over the past three decades."

Kurtzman has served as president of business operations at 20th since 2014 when he was partnered with Jonnie Davis. During their tenure, they developed hits like This Is Us and signed key overall deals with creator Dan Fogelman as well as the likes of Liz Meriwether (New Girl, Bless This Mess) and Steve Levitan (Modern Family), among several others. During Kurtzman's tenure, he has been involved with producing mega-hits like 24, How I Met Your Mother, Glee, Family Guy, Ally McBeal, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Simpsons.

"20th has been much more than my employer for all these years," Kurtzman said in a memo to staff (see below). "It’s also been an incredibly vibrant and exciting place to work, where we accomplished so many great things together, from Modern Family to Family Guy, Glee, 24 and most recently This Is Us, to name only a few. Those close to me know that I have been talking about stepping down for quite some time, and I am so grateful to Dana and Craig for their generosity through this process. This career has been an incredible ride — an E-ticket ride, in fact.”

When Davis was named president of ABC Studios last year, Kurtzman was partnered with Cassidy, who was promoted from her role as executive vp current series to president of creative affairs for the studio. Cassidy will now be credited as the studio's lone president, marking the first time in years that 20th TV has had one single exec at the top.

“Howard is a hall of fame TV executive who has been responsible for some of the most impressive and groundbreaking deals in the business," said Hunegs, who serves as Disney TV Studios president. "He’s a great leader and mentor and we’ll miss his terrific sense of humor."

The promotion marks a quick rise to the top for Cassidy, who, like fellow studio chiefs Bert Salke (Fox 21) and Davis (ABC Studios), reports to Hunegs. Cassidy was promoted to vp current in 2018 after taking over that department in 2015. The Harvard grad was a member of The Hollywood Reporter's Next Gen class of 2010.

Here is Kurtzman's memo to staff:

Dear colleagues,
 
As you’ve heard that with Dana and Craig’s blessing and my deepest gratitude, I will be setting my retirement date for this June. Many of you know this is something I’ve been looking forward to for a while, and now I feel the time is right. 
 
20th has been much more than my employer for all these years, it has been my home. So many of you have become family members, both literally and in every other sense. Of course I met Sharon here, and Dana and Gary, Jennifer and Bert, and so many others who  became not only terrific bosses and trusted colleagues but also my most treasured friends. 
 
We’ve had such a run together, from “Modern Family” to “Family Guy,” “Glee,” “24” and most recently “This Is Us” to name only a very few. What an incredible ride! We are all lucky to be working in this golden age of television together, and I am especially grateful to have shared this time with you, the best executives, colleagues and friends in the business. 
 
I am especially grateful to Dana and Craig for their generosity and support, and to Jonnie and Carolyn, two of the best partners I could have wished for. 
 
As for me, I just want everyone to know that while I may be leaving a job that has nourished me these many years, I am really looking forward to retirement. We all have lists of things we’d like to do or try if only we had the time, and I am lucky to have the luxury of tackling a few of mine.  
 
My departure date is still months away, so this is not “goodbye.” More a “thank you,” and a moment to say that I truly believe the best is yet to come, for all of us. 
 
Warmly,
 
Howard