Discovery Founder John Hendricks Retiring as Chairman of Board

Courtesy of Discovery
John Hendricks

UPDATED: The 61-year-old will stay on through the annual shareholders meeting in May.

John Hendricks is officially departing Discovery Communications.

The 61-year-old founder of the massive media company, who stepped down as CEO in 2004, will retire from his role as chairman of the board of directors and director of the board this spring. He will remain in the position through the May 16 annual meeting of shareholders.

"Few words can appropriately convey what kind of person John is, or what he has meant to this company and the cable television industry overall," said current president and CEO David Zaslav. "He is a true visionary, a man of enormous integrity and one of the world's great entrepreneurs. On behalf of the 5,600 employees of Discovery Communications, I want to thank John for all that he has done, and all that he has stood for, as Founder and Chairman of Discovery for more than 30 years, and believing the world needed a different kind of media company -- a purpose-driven media company."

Hendricks created Discovery Channel in 1985, paving the way for Discovery Communications to become the leading media brand in nonfiction entertainment. He notified the board in a Thursday memo, "My Early Retirement."

"Ten years ago in 2004, I decided it was just the right time for me to step down as CEO," writes Hendricks. "Now, 10 years later, with Discovery on such a strong growth path under David's able leadership and a strong Board of Directors, I likewise feel this is the perfect time to depart from the Board and from my role as Chairman and as an executive of the company. For over three decades now, I have somewhat envied the legions of documentarians that we have employed who have traveled the world to bring great stories and experiences to our viewers. It is now finally time for me to go exploring! I plan to spend the next few years traveling the planet and discovering the questions and mysteries that intrigue us all."

Discovery Communications' brand has grown over the years to include a host of networks -- including TLC, Animal Planet, the Oprah Winfrey Network, Science, Hub and Velocity.

Hendricks' many honors include the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Governor’s Award.