Montgomery, who took the role in late 2015, will remain for six months in an advisory role while he launches a new unscripted company.
There's big news in one of the top executive suites in unscripted television: David George has been upped to CEO of ITV America, as Brent Montgomery steps down to launch a new company.
Montgomery's new project gets a production partnership with the studio, and the executive will also remain for six months in an advisory role.
"I fully understand Brent's decision," ITV Studios managing director Julian Bellamy said Thursday in a statement. "He's an entrepreneur at heart and this move takes him back to what he loves doing most. I would like to thank Brent for being a fantastic leader of ITV America, and I'm delighted he will be partnering with us in his new venture. Brent hands over a business in great shape with an exceptionally strong team behind it. It's a testament to his leadership that we are able to appoint a new CEO from within the group."
Montgomery was named CEO of ITV America in December 2015, one year after he sold a controlling stake of his Leftfield Entertainment Group to ITV for $360 million. This was at the height of the unscripted independents acquisitions boom — and a result of the runaway success Montgomery and Leftfield's Pawn Stars franchise was enjoying. More details about his next project are said to be announced in the coming days, but it will focus on content and talent that lend themselves to "360 businesses." All projects will be produced in-house by ITV America's production infrastructure, and Montgomery takes with him ITV exec Ed Simpson.
George assumes the role of CEO immediately. He was last promoted just a year ago when he was named president of ITV America after a two-year stretch of serving as CEO of Leftfield after several years as one of Montgomery's top lieutenants.
"I am delighted that David is stepping up," added Bellamy. "He has already shown that he is a brilliant creative and talented business leader, a true industry force who has a strong background on the network side as well as running a major production company. I very much look forward to supporting David's vision as he continues to build ITV America."
At ITV America, George's purview now includes a deep bench of production companies — ITV Entertainment, Leftfield Pictures, Thinkfactory Media, High Noon Entertainment, Loud TV, Outpost Entertainment and Sirens Media among them. The company is also responsible for such hits as HGTV breakout Fixer Upper, Hell's Kitchen, The Real Housewives of New Jersey and the upcoming Netflix reboot of Queer Eye.
"In 2010, when I left the network side and everything familiar to me to join Brent on this wild ride, I could never have imagined that the path would take us here," said George. "As a producer, and during my long tenure at MTV steering TRL, I learned unequivocally that each day is a chance to prove your worth. From the minute I started as an executive producer at Leftfield Pictures through now, as CEO of ITV America, that same opportunity has been put in front of me on a daily basis. For that I will never be able to thank Brent Montgomery enough. ITV America encompasses an amazing group of people, and we are focused on how we can reimagine what a production company can be. Creating content is a team sport, and together we will continue the legacy of this company, making bold moves and adapting to what comes. I want to thank Julian Bellamy and everyone at ITV for their ongoing support, as well as our network and platform partners with whom we will work in concert to navigate the next media wave. I cannot wait to get started. We will prove our worth, one day at a time."
ITV, like many unscripted giants, is not without its need to launch a new hit. Fixer Upper is ending, as did former studio flagship Duck Dynasty. Its most recent launch, Fox's The Four, has been a steady (if modest) performer.
"While I couldn't be happier to embark on my next entrepreneurial chapter, leaving the hardworking, supremely talented and genuinely amazing people of ITV America, and what we created together, was the most difficult decision of my career," said Montgomery. "Now, as I look to build and grow a new company, I am thrilled to continue to partner with ITV America — the best in the business and whose great fortune it is now to be led by my longtime partner David George. He took Leftfield Pictures and made it better, he took Leftfield Entertainment and grew it, and I expect nothing less at ITV America. The trust and support ITV has shown me over the last four years is unprecedented. I couldn't be more thankful and proud of our accomplishments, and am happy to be leaving the company in great hands, and with an incredible slate of cable, network and OTT shows heading into the new year."
See memos from both below, with Montgomery's first.
Good morning. As many of you know I have a saying, "Replace Yourself," which is meant as the theme for how we grow and how you have to train the next man/woman so you can take the next step. Today I take my own advice and my replacement needs no introduction: David George.
I'll be moving back to where my heart always resets... due entrepreneurial north.
This was the most difficult decision of my career. It’s one thing to leave the name on the door and the shows, but it’s almost unimaginable to say goodbye to the heart, brain and soul of any creative company, the people (even you Matt Miller).
I couldn’t be more proud of what we all built, starting with Leftfield in a Lower East Side basement with two mini dv cameras and a 12G Casablanca editing system into what is now a trailblazing group of production companies and, more importantly, a culture of team. The trust and support ITV has shown me over the last four years is unprecedented and I’m happy to be leaving the business in your capable hands with broadcast, cable and soon to be OTT hits galore!
When I looked over the landscape as to who to partner with on my next TV shingle, there was no search, it was once again...you and ITV America.
I am so incredibly proud of what we have built and shared with our many partners that it felt like a no brainer, and I was fortunate that ITV felt the same.
You all followed me into battle each and every day in an industry that was for many years the wild west, and for that this cowboy says, thank you!
As for what's next, I'm off to build something unique in the marketplace that will focus on a variety of spokes under a larger umbrella known as Wheelhouse Entertainment. My co-architect in the building of the Leftfield group, Ed Simpson, will be joining me and we will focus largely on disrupting the current unscripted business model, and selling a lot of cutting-edge programs for you all at ITV Creative to make!
I’m thrilled to partner with ITV America – the best in the business and whose great fortune it is now to be led by my longtime partner in crime, DG.
DG, you've taught me so much about TV, friendship, parenting and commuting from CT to the City. I know you will crush this opportunity and I'll be close by for anything and everything you and ITV may need.
We all have some of the greatest jobs in the world. On a bad day we're making the 38th episode of a TV show and on a good day we're imagining what that 38th episode will look like, but with nothing more than a blank piece of paper in front of us. Swing for the fences and don't take no for an answer. Your creativity is your biggest weapon. Imagine bigger and bolder and if you flop get back up again.
Today is an incredible day for me as I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to steer ITV America at such an interesting time in the evolving media business.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, Brent Montgomery came to meet me at MTV and pitched me a concept. I hadn't really heard of Leftfield Pictures, but I knew there was a new show Pawn Stars that was making waves and this was the company that did it. It was the beginning of something incredible, and Brent saw something in me that no one else did. He gave me an incredible opportunity to join him. It literally was the best decision of my professional life.
Thousands of hours of programming later, that opportunity remains as strong as ever. If you look at us as a group we are doing so many incredible things. We are leading the charge into new platforms with series coming on Facebook and Netflix. We have the biggest and baddest music competition on Fox in The Four. We are primed to evolve and become even greater in the coming years. That is Brent’s legacy.
It is also a bit bittersweet for me to be saying goodbye to Ed Simpson in his current role. I can’t say enough about how much he has meant to building this company and helping us form the many meaningful partnerships we have across the board. Ed has done so many wonderful things for us and this is his legacy as well.
The best part of all of this is they both remain in the family, moving on to the next chapter working with ITV in a fresh and new way. You may ask yourself why all of this makes sense right now. The answer is quite simple. This market is all about evolving and adapting. I am so proud of what they are going to do because it’s a new way to attack the market. That has always been the name of the game for us at Leftfield and now ITV.
As for our future at ITV America, there are many amazing things to reveal in the next few months. We are going to evolve and adapt as well. Our presence in the market is stronger than ever. That means opportunity for us all. But we cannot rest on what we’ve done. We must continue to push ourselves to think outside the box and be as bold creatively as we can be. That is what excites me the most about taking this role.
Please join me in thanking Brent and Ed for all they have done and will continue to do for this company. And please come ride with me as we head towards the future with incredible hope and excitement for what is to come. ITV America is just beginning its story. We have work to do.