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The ‘Morning’ after

Exec producer exits 'GMA' for family move

First it lost co-anchor Charlie Gibson. Now ABC’s “Good Morning America” is losing another linchpin of its recent success: executive producer Ben Sherwood.

Sherwood told staff on Friday that he’s resigning his post, effective Oct. 1, and moving his family to Los Angeles to be closer to his ailing mother.

The departure complicates matters at “GMA,” which lost Gibson to “World News Tonight” in May and was just starting the delicate process of finding the right personality to join co-anchors Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts.

In a memo to staff, Sherwood said he would remain engaged in that transition process as the show girds to compete with NBC’s top-ranked “Today,” which lost Katie Couric to CBS but gained Meredith Vieira as Matt Lauer’s morning partner for the fall.

“We all know the morning TV battle enters a whole new era in September,” Sherwood said. “Indeed, we’re making big plans for the summer and fall season ahead. I plan to lead the fight through the summer with everything I’ve got, and I’ll work closely with my successor and the whole team for a smooth transition in the fall.”

ABC is looking at male candidates within the network to replace Gibson, including Bill Weir, Chris Cuomo and Bill Ritter, who will take on greater roles within the show through the summer.

Gibson’s departure broke apart a partnership with Sawyer that brought “GMA” within 40,000 viewers of “Today” in spring 2005. At the end of May sweeps, that gap stood at 810,000 viewers.

ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said Sawyer is under contract through 2007 and has committed to the immediate future to the show.

ABC News execs insisted Sherwood’s decision to leave was his own. He’s leaving behind a seven-figure salary, they said, and that professional opportunities within the ABC-Disney family would be available to him on the West Coast.

“Nothing would make us happier than to have Ben continue to be a part of ‘GMA,’ ” Schneider said, adding that ABC News president David Westin “made it clear to Ben there will always be a place at ABC News.”

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