Tony Cohen to be replaced by Cecile Frot-Coutaz

Cecile Frot-Coutaz will be heading home to Europe as the new CEO of FremantleMedia.

French-born Frot-Coutaz, currently the CEO of FremantleMedia’s North America division, will shift from Los Angeles to London and replace 17-year FremantleMedia topper Tony Cohen, who is stepping down to focus on non-executive work.

The ascension of Frot-Coutaz, an exec producer of FremantleMedia staples such as “American Idol,” “The X Factor” and “America’s Got Talent,” was a bit surprising in that she was selected over current FremantleMedia chief operating officer Gary Carter, who ascended to that position only few years ago.

Although Fremantle, owned by Euro broadcast giant RTL Group, has long been a globally minded company, Frot-Coutaz’s promotion is seen as a sign of the importance of the U.S. market to its overall operations.

Frot-Coutaz, who immersed herself in the business affairs of the FremantleMedia programming lineup, is known as a meticulous exec who may have felt the need to take on new challenges.

Upon receiving the Brandon Tartikoff Award at NATPE earlier this year, Frot-Coutaz said of her role: “It’s tough and it’s getting untenable and I will have to figure something out. I’m not as day to day as some of the other executive producers. … I have some ideas though.”

There is no clear successor at the Burbank-based FremantleMedia North America headquarters in replacing Frot-Coutaz, who may have to temporarily handle the responsibilities of both jobs until her position is filled.

FremantleMedia may have to look outside the company to find someone with both the business and creative skills of Frot-Coutaz.

With Frot-Coutaz moving to London, how much creative input she will continue to offer on “Idol” — currently in its 11th season on Fox and, clearly, FremantleMedia NorthAmerica’s signature series — remains to be seen.

As for her new duties, “Cecile has the vision and leadership that are needed to further grow FremantleMedia,” said Guillaume de Posch, co-CEO of RTL Group. “She brings expertise and drive from the largest TV market in the world and combines her creative skills as a producer with a sharp business perspective.

De Posch praised Cohen for his role in building Fremantle into a major international player. Exec joined what was then Pearson Television in 1995 and had served as CEO since 2001.

“He transformed FremantleMedia from a collection of individual entities into a global content powerhouse,” de Posch said.

Cohen’s departure comes two months after longtime RTL topper Gerhard Zeiler announced his resignation to join Turner Broadcasting System as head of international later this year.

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