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Kings size Haimovitz

Veteran TV exec eyes COO post at KW

NEW YORK — King World Prods. is close to finalizing negotiations with veteran TV exec Jules Haimovitz to take over the COO post left open since Stephen W. Palley ankled the company last fall.

Haimovitz, formerly a top executive at ITC, Viacom and Spelling Entertainment, could not be reached for comment. King World declined comment, but a source near the negotiations said, “We’re close.”

Palley, an exec VP and COO at King World, left the company when his contract expired last September. He was rumored to have taken the fall for the collapse of King World’s deal to sell the company to New World Communications Group, which was instead bought by News Corp. The company has been searching for a COO ever since.

Haimovitz was most recently president and CEO of ITC, which was folded into Polygram TV in March. Polygram named agent Bob Sanitsky president, and Haimovitz resigned his post, but remained as a consultant to the company, working on the Sundance Film Channel cable net and other ventures. Prior to ITC, Haimovitz was president of Spelling and president of Viacom Networks.

Terrible two

King World has had a tumultuous two years in which the company has been on and off the block several times. The company, which syndicates top-rated talkshow “Oprah” and the gameshows “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy,” has come close to selling at least twice.

Now, King World’s top execs say the company is not for sale, and they are trying to build the programming base beyond its current stable. Without a station group, many have questioned whether the syndicator could survive and grow into the next century, but the company was given at least a temporary shot in the arm when it secured renewals for “Wheel” and “Jeopardy” in much of the country through 2002.

Star search

King World is also searching for top-name talent to headline new shows that will be an easy sell even without the leverage of an inhouse station group. This week, the company will announce a new talkshow with Roseanne to debut in 1998, which could take the place of “Oprah,” if Oprah Winfrey she decides to hang it up at the end of next season. Winfrey is expected to make that decision this September.

The company is also suing Sony to secure rights to launch “Hollywood Squares” in 1998. Sources say King World also has had preliminary talks with DreamWorks about becoming the fledgling studio’s distribution partner. On Friday, King World’s stock closed up 37¢ to $38.12.

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