Ben Sherwood’s Expected Disney Exit Confirmed by Sky Sale to Comcast

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Ben Sherwood

With its acquisition of Fox assets, Disney is inheriting a roster of executives that will create some redundancies on the TV side.

Ben Sherwood, co-chairman and co-president of the Disney Media Networks division, is planning to leave Disney once the merger with 21st Century Fox is complete, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.

With its acquisition of Fox assets, Disney is inheriting a roster of executives that will create some redundancies on the TV side. The $71.3 billion deal will bolster Disney’s TV assets at a time when library content is becoming increasingly valuable and as the company is poised to launch its own streaming service to compete with Netflix.

Sherwood had been offered other jobs at Disney, and there had been some speculation that he would take on a new role heading up global news and nonfiction content, which was a clear demotion from his previous role. He had a contract with Disney extending until 2021.

However, early Saturday, Comcast outbid 21st Century Fox for TV giant Sky with an offer worth £17.28 ($22.60) per share, which values Sky at £29.7 billion ($38.8 billion). Sherwood was in conversations for a position at Sky should 21st Century Fox, which Disney is acquiring, have prevailed in its bid to buy the entirety of the European broadcaster. The expectation at Disney was that if Comcast prevailed in the Sky auction, which it did on Saturday, Sherwood would leave.

The move marks a fairly remarkable fall for Sherwood, who until a year or two ago was considered a rising star at Disney and a potential heir apparent for CEO Bob Iger. But struggles at broadcast network ABC and Disney cable networks including the rebranded Freeform, coupled with the loss of high-profile creators Shonda Rhimes and Kenya Barris to Netflix and the implosion of the hit Roseanne revival after star Roseanne Barr’s racist tweet, marred Sherwood’s tenure atop the TV assets.

The move also is the first of several executive shuffles expected to be announced soon in the wake of Disney’s acquisition of most of Fox. Peter Rice, a longtime Murdoch family lieutenant, is expected to be elevated to run Disney’s TV assets (except ESPN), while Fox TV studio chief Dana Walden has been eyed for a major role under Rice. Fox film studio chief Stacey Snider is expected to exit.

Sherwood’s pending departure arrives days after Bob Greenblatt revealed plans to step down as entertainment president at NBC. Broadcast networks have faced an uphill battle amid the explosion of content from streamers and new arrivals including Apple and Facebook.

In his entry on THR's 100 most powerful people in entertainment list, Sherwood said, when asked what the biggest surprise for him of 2018 was, "It's fair to say we didn't expect to cancel the No. 1 show on television."

Variety was first to report the Sherwood news.