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Even before Rich Ross takes over as president of Discovery Channel in January, there are significant personnel changes.
Ed Sabin, a seven-year veteran of the company who has been group COO for the Discovery and TLC networks since 2011, is leaving.
In addition, Dolores Gavin, who was promoted to executive vp development and production East Coast in early 2013, is also departing.
Sabin said in a memo that he is leaving because of “structural changes” in the leadership of the company, which apparently means Ross wants his own team at Discovery Channel, without overlap at other networks.
That also impacts Gavin, whose job duties will be absorbed by Denise Contis, who was promoted to executive vp, production and development, West Coast, in September 2013.
The moves send a clear message that Ross is putting a priority on working with the current team.
Ross, who reports to Discovery CEO David Zaslav, had a long career at Disney and is credited with building the Disney Channel into a kids’ powerhouse. More recently, Ross ran the American arm of Shine before it was merged into Endemol and Core Media Group.
For Discovery, Ross will be based in Los Angeles. That shifts some (but not all) of the development from the Discovery headquarters in Silver Springs, outside Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles.
Sabin has had oversight of strategy, network operations, financing and business matters for the two flagship Discovery networks, as well as the continuing Medical Education business.
He also served as COO of TLC, and at times had involvement in other Discovery networks including Science and Velocity.
Sabin, who has a law degree, worked at Fox Television Studios for seven years before joining Discovery in 2007.
Gavin, based in Silver Springs, helped develop series including Gold Rush, Flying Wild Alaska and Moonshiners. She also played a role in Discovery’s first scripted series, Klondike. She previously worked at the History Channel.
Here is the memo from Sabin:
I have enjoyed working at this company for the past 7-plus years. This is the smartest, hardest-working and most creative and strategic group I have been a part of, and I feel so lucky to have been able to learn from and contribute to it. My role as Group COO, which was created when Discovery Channel and TLC were under common creative leadership, has been challenging and stimulating in every way, allowing me to contribute to the most important assets of the company.
In light of recent management and structural changes in the leadership of the company, the opportunity to be across multiple businesses in an operational role is no longer available. As a consequence, the company and I have decided amicably to part ways. We are still discussing the timing and particulars around my departure, but have agreed it will happen… but not immediately, so you can expect to see me (and hear potty-mouth hip hop blaring from the speakers in my office) for some time longer!
I say this with mixed emotions because, while I am excited to embark on the next chapter of my career, I will be leaving behind friends and colleagues for whom I have immense respect and affection, from the most senior to the most junior levels.
Discovery has been a fantastic place for me, and I will treasure the time I’ve spent here.
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