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NESBITT SWAPS COASTS

KABC general manager Alan Nesbitt shocked his staff Sept. 21 when he abruptly announced at the end of a budget meeting that he will leave his position on Nov. 1, precisely two years after he moved into the job.

But Nesbitt, a 28-year veteran of ABC owner Capital Cities, will remain with the company as a consultant, handling special projects for CapCities/ABC O& O prez Larry Pollock within the recently expanded 10-station group.

Nesbitt, 54, cited “personal and family considerations” for his decision to relocate to the East Coast.

Pollock said the search for a new general manager will begin immediately. Despite his track record of promoting from within, no immediate favorites emerged. Sources said that Disney chairman Michael Eisner was told about the vacancy atop the L.A. station and gave the go-ahead for Pollock to start interviewing candidates. The usual suspects – the general managers of the ABC stations on the East Coast and in Chicago – do not appear to be in the running at this early stage.

Since Pollock will be heavily involved in formulating budgets at the ABC stations over the next month, it could leave KABC without a general manager during the November sweeps.

Over the past year, KABC has slipped into second place behind KNBC in the late news race as NBC’s primetime schedule has grown more powerful. But its early afternoon news remains in first despite heavy erosion for its lead-in, “Oprah Winfrey.” The station, which has long been the advertising revenue and ratings leader in Los Angeles, also saw KNBC move out front in the ad race during the second quarter of this year.

Nesbitt came to KABC at the behest of Pollock. He previously served as general manager of ABC-owned WPVI Philadelphia, a powerhouse that routinely gets double-digit news ratings against so-so competition. The L.A. station proved to be a more difficult ship to maneuver than the one in Philadelphia, which ABC insiders say is riding on “autopilot.”

At KABC, Nesbitt faced more intense competition as well as union problems, talent defections and 11-hour days. He replaced the previous regime of top managers and introduced a number of elements employed at WPVI, including higher story counts, different graphics and more voiceovers.

Nesbitt also initiated a search for a new station facility, which could take several years to complete.

Station insiders described Nesbitt as being honest and straightforward, traits that are not always appreciated in Hollywood.

Having spent his entire life on the East Coast, Nesbitt said he and his wife missed it and wanted to return to be close to family and friends. The couple intends to build a house in Hilton Head, S.C., where they already have a vacation condo.

Still, Nesbitt said he will take assignments from Pollock and spend time traveling between the ABC O& Os.

In a statement, Pollock said, “We regret Alan’s decision to leave KABC-TV. He has done an outstanding job during his two years there. We are pleased, however, that he will remain with the company and assist in a number of important projects for our television station group.”

Prior to Philadelphia, Nesbitt was G.M. of the CapCities/ABC station in Raleigh-Durham, N.C. Prior to that, he served as news director at WPVI and in news management positions at the CapCities station in Buffalo.

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