MTV Nets exec Wolf exits post


MTV Networks president and chief operating officer Michael Wolf has resigned after 15 months on the job, the company confirmed Thursday.

Also leaving the company is Nicole Browning, a 21-year MTV Networks veteran who has been president of affiliate sales and marketing for the past six years. The news of Browning and Wolf's departures hit on the same day that MTV Networks faced the media with its presentations at the Television Critics Assn. winter press tour in Pasadena. The corporate shake-up overshadowed MTV's big announcement of the day, that producer Mark Burnett has been enlisted to produce this year's MTV Movie Awards, which will air live for the first time this year.

"Michael's been a longtime strategic partner to MTV Networks, and we're grateful to have had his undivided attention devoted to our company for the past year," MTV Networks chairman and CEO Judy McGrath said in a statement. "Michael completed a strong and actionable long-range plan and brought some of our best and brightest minds in to the company."

Former consulting guru Wolf, who according to sources had about two years left on his contract, said Thursday that he felt it was "a good moment" for him to move on. "We have accomplished a lot," he said.

Wolf is expected to negotiate an arrangement that would drop a noncompete clause in his initial contract and allow him to move into a senior executive role at another entertainment company.

Wolf joined MTV Networks from McKinsey & Co., where he was a managing partner. He was hired at MTV Networks by Viacom CEO Tom Freston and had been rumored to leave the company since Freston was ousted in September. Wolf's charter at MTV Networks was to help the company expand into such areas as the Internet, wireless, WiFi and consumer electronics.

Earlier this month, MTVN announced a complete overhaul of its digital media team to be led by Mika Salmi, the newly appointed president of global digital media at MTV Networks.

Browning's departure was unconnected to the shake-up on the digital media side and was only coincidental that word of her departure broke at the same time as Wolf's.

"She deserves as much credit as anyone for the industry-leading success of MTV Networks and for expanding the reach of our brands across multiple platforms," McGrath said of Browning.

In Pasadena, MTV Networks brass sought to accentuate the positive by bringing producer Burnett out to tout plans for the 16th annual MTV Movie Awards, set for June 3 in Los Angeles. It's something of a reunion for Burnett, who started his career at MTV with "Eco-Challenge" in the mid-1990s.

"I feel like I'm at home with MTV," he said. "I'm a huge MTV fan — I love the Video Music Awards and the Movie Awards," so the opportunity to exec produce the show was one he couldn't pass up, he said.

MTV president Christina Norman said the new partnership between Burnett and MTV came about after the network approached him to see if he would be interested in exec producing the Movie Awards.

"We were thinking about new names, someone with energy, and Mark was a natural," she said.

Salli Frattini, who has served as executive producer of the Movie Awards for the past 10 years, will return and work closely with Burnett as well. Burnett and Frattini worked together on "Eco-Challenge."

Burnett and Norman said the decision to go live for the first time in the show's 16-year history was spurred by the desire to make the show — which features awards in such categories as best kiss, best villain and best comedic performance — feel more spontaneous.

"It really is the anti-awards show," Burnett said. "Doing it live really lends itself to what MTV stand for — (things will happen) on the fly, it will be more unscripted, less overly written TelePrompTer stuff, and it will let the stars have more fun."

Nellie Andreeva reported from Los Angeles; Kimberly Nordyke reported from Pasadena. Georg Szalai in New York and Andrew Wallenstein in Los Angelescontributed to this report.