Sarah Frank, the president and chief executive officer of BBC Worldwide Americas, is resigning following a major reorganization of the U.S. operation. The overhaul will result in a loss of 16 jobs out of the 60-strong operation.

Frank, a well-known figure in international media circles, decided to leave rather than play a role in the newly retooled operation. She will exit at the end of March.

Under Frank’s six-and-a-half-year tenure at the helm of the New York-based operation, sales of the BBC’s programs to U.S. outlets has grown fivefold. Frank also spearheaded the development of co-productions with U.S. partners, set up a video label and an educational division, and encouraged the creation of original series based on the BBC’s film archives. Before joining the BBC in 1984, Frank worked extensively in international production and distribution, including stints with Time-Life Films and Children’s Television Workshop.

Key BBC staffers who received pinkslips in the reshuffle include co-production head Eileen Opatut and production exec Eve Krzyzanowski.

For the immediate future, Maq Jawed, the chief financial officer of the unit, will assume the role of acting general manager of BBC Worldwide Americas. Acting responsibility for TV sales, co-productions and production will be assumed by Candace Carlisle.

Frank told Daily Variety Wednesday, “I am proud of what we accomplished in six years in boosting the profile and the revenues for the BBC.”

‘Great personal regret’

In a statement, BBC Worldwide chief operating officer Dick Emery said, “I accept Sarah’s resignation with great personal regret. She has made a huge contribution to the BBC and Worldwide America’s team.”

The reorganization of the BBC’s operations Stateside comes in the wake of the establishment last October of an ambitious joint venture with Discovery Communications to produce programming and to launch cable channels throughout the world.

As part of that deal, Discovery is ponying up some $250 million over five years to acquire existing BBC series and specials and to co-produce shows for Discovery and, eventually, a BBC America channel.

Sources say the new BBC relationship with Discovery was bound to impact the direction and the autonomy of the U.S. sales operation.

Ever more streamlined

In addition, sources say that the BBC as a whole is being spurred by the British government to become ever more commercially minded and streamlined.

“The reorganization will allow us to refocus our effort in the U.S. in response to the changes in the marketplace and, of course, in distribution technology. We need to bring the strategy-setting process in the international regions closer to London. The result of the reorganization will be a BBC Americas which is more cost-effective and better able to serve Worldwide’s broader interests in that market,” Emery said in the statement.

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