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Granath makes way for De Villiers at ABC

Herbert Granath, the highly regarded international veteran of ABC, will formally turn over the reins of the combined Disney/ABC Intl. Television operation to his designated successor, Etienne De Villiers, in January, according to an internal memo circulated to staff Monday.

The move was foreshadowed 18 months ago when the two international operations of ABC and Disney were consolidated into one organization. At that time, Granath was named chairman of Disney/ABC Intl. Television and De Villiers received the prexy title.

It was understood then that De Villiers, a South African based in London, would succeed Granath at an unspecified time in the future.

Granath, who is based at ABC in New York, will retain his corporate title of senior VP at the parent company through 1999 and will also continue as chairman of ESPN and of A&E, the two cable channels in which ABC is a major shareholder. Granath will also remain actively involved in ABC’s dealings with the Academy Awards, an event the broadcaster airs and sells around the world.

Granath told Daily Variety that much of the transition to De Villiers has already been accomplished and that the biggest change come January would be a letup for him on all the travel required for the job.

Since the merger with Disney, Granath has traveled on behalf of the company to nurture top-level relationships in various parts of the world, including China, and to set the groundwork for the launch of localized Disney Channels around the globe. He also accompanied Michael Ovitz on several forays that the former Disney president made abroad on behalf of the company.

De Villiers, who could not be reached for comment, will now report to Robert Iger, president of CapCities/ABC Inc. rather than to Granath. A 10-year veteran of Disney, De Villiers will also retain his title of managing director of the Walt Disney Co. Ltd. in the U.K.

The reporting change suggests that Iger will soon take a much more active role in overseeing the global expansion of Disney/ABC.

Up until now Granath — who has enjoyed a 40-year career at the Alphabet web — had always been the point person at the network for international operations. He spearheaded the company’s foray into the fledgling cable programming arena in the late 1970s and later led the company into international investing at a time when global expansion was considered by most American media players as, at best, an afterthought.

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