Gutteridge free of Fremantle

FremantleMedia North America CEO Tom Gutteridge is departing his post, just a year after taking the reins of the “American Idol” production shingle.

Until a permanent replacement is found, Catherine Mackay will add stripes as acting chief exec of the division. Mackay currently serves as FremantleMedia’s regional CEO for USA, Australia and Asia, as well as chief exec of FremantleMedia Enterprises.

Reached just as he was boarding a plane to London, the Brit-born Gutteridge told Daily Variety that he was leaving for “personal issues that need resolving” in the U.K. but declined to elaborate.

“I thought it was the right thing to do at this time,” Gutteridge said. “The plan is I’ll be in England the next two to three months, but I look forward to coming back to the States.”

Gutteridge will still be working as a creative consultant for FremantleMedia on some of the projects he helped develop as CEO. “I wanted to make sure the projects I’d been working on come to fruition,” he said.

Insiders said that disagreements between Gutteridge and FremantleMedia’s Europe-based brass may have helped spur his exit.

Nonetheless, Gutteridge’s departure was something of a surprise as the exec had just recently got his team into place. Earlier this month, the exec sealed a multiyear co-venture deal with top reality producer Stuart Krasnow (Daily Variety, March 7).

FremantleMedia North America also launched a number of programming initiatives under Gutteridge, including the Instant Comedy Project, a unit dedicated to coming up with sitcom ideas and putting them on film in as little as one week (Daily Variety, Nov. 2).

The Krasnow pact came as part of FremantleMedia’s new program to serve as an incubator for individual producers and small reality companies. Under the program, FremantleMedia provides housekeeping for the producers, such as legal and business affairs, rights clearances, etc.

“Tom’s initiatives in comedy and factual entertainment have really helped broaden the range of FremantleMedia’s programming in the U.S.,” Mackay said.

Gutteridge joined FremantleMedia from U.K. indie TV operation the Television Corp., where he was group creative director. While there, he exec produced Fox reality skein “Paradise Hotel.”

Before that, Gutteridge founded and ran U.K. production company Mentorn, which he sold in 2000. He was also an exec at the BBC.

Besides “Idol,” FremantleMedia North America is a producer on Fox’s “The Swan,” as well as the Comedy Central entry “Distraction,” the syndie strip “Family Feud,” CBS’ long-running “The Price Is Right” and Lifetime’s “How Clean Is Your House?”

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