Sarbu to take helm at European TV group

Michael Garin, the brash New Yorker who has led an aggressive drive for growth at CME — Central and Eastern Europe’s biggest TV network — announced Monday he is stepping down as chief exec.

Chief operating officer Adrian Sarbu, a Romanian who has played an increasing role in consolidating the company’s eastward expansion, takes the helm.

CME, which is owned by Ron Lauder, runs channels in seven countries including TV Nova, the Czech Republic’s terrestrial market leader. The CME group of channels reaches nearly 100 million viewers.

Garin, who co-founded Lorimar Telepictures in 1978 and is a former exec at ING Barings, became CEO at CME in 2004. He will become vice-chairman of the CME board and also sits on the boards of American Media and Showtime.

His outspoken, accessible style contrasts with that of Sarbu, who rarely speaks publicly unless it’s to illuminate an aspect of an earnings report.

The web’s financial health, despite recent investment in some troubled markets such as Ukraine and third quarter 2008 net losses of $14.8 million, appears sound, with net revenues for the first three quarters of this year up 35% over last year’s to $729.9 million.

Garin said of his work at CME: “My greatest source of pride is in our 3,500 employees — fewer than 40 of whom are from outside the region. Building a company that has empowered the people from our seven countries — Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia and Ukraine — will be my lasting legacy.”

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