12:45pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
Howard Kurtzman Sets Retirement as Carolyn Cassidy Named Lone 20th TV President
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: