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Sherwood ankles ‘GMA’

Exec producer's last day will be Oct. 1

Ben Sherwood, executive producer of ABC’s “Good Morning America” is leaving the No. 2-ranked ayem show next fall, he said in a memo to staff on Friday.

Sherwood is resigning his post, one he had held for two years, to move to Los Angeles to care for his ailing mother. His last day will be Oct. 1.

The departure further complicates matters at “GMA,” which just lost co-anchor Charlie Gibson to “World News Tonight,” and had planned to use the summer to try new partners for co-anchors Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts.

In his memo, Sherwood said he would help lead the shaping of the post-Gibson “GMA,” as well as assist in transition.

“We all know the morning TV battle enters a whole new era in September,” he 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 have rotating stints in the cast this summer.

Gibson’s departure also raised questions about Sawyer’s future with the show. ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said Sawyer is under contract through 2007 and has committed herself to the immediate future to the show.

Sherwood said leaving “GMA” was no easy decision. A network source told Daily Variety he is walking away from a seven-figure salary at the network.

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

A search for a successor will begin immediately, Schneider said.

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