“Over the past 21 years, I’ve had the great fortune of working alongside some of the most talented and inspiring people in the business, from my co-workers and bosses, to the talent on our shows, both in front of and behind the camera,” said Earley in a statement. “Because of the entrepreneurial spirit that pervades FOX, and the incredible support of the teams across the network, I have been afforded unbelievable opportunities for growth and new experiences. I’m very grateful to Dana Walden, Gary Newman and Peter Rice for their leadership and friendship, and for inviting me to join them at the Fox Television Group, which has allowed me to also appreciate the impressive team on the studio side. All of this new opportunity, however, as rewarding as it is, has led me further and further from the creative process, which is really where my heart wants to be. So, while I will miss my extended FOX family terribly, it is time for me to pursue the proverbial, ‘next chapter.’ As a former publicist, I thought I would never use that phrase, but it turns out that sometimes it’s true.”
Earley had approached Walden and Newman earlier this year about leaving, and they set in motion a series of hires and promotions to ensure an orderly transition. Angela Courtin, for example, was named Chief Marketing Officer in July, assuming Earley’s responsibilities.
News of Earley’s departure took Fox insiders by surprise on Thursday. Sources on the lot said there was no doubt that it was his decision to step down.
Said Newman and Walden, “Joe is one of the most talented executives and gifted leaders we’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, so we are saddened that he has decided to step down. We have been discussing his desire to get closer to the creative process for a while now, and although we would love for him to stay at Fox for another 21 years, we understand and fully support his plans to take on new challenges. We are extremely grateful to Joe for his partnership, strategic insight and all of his contributions to the company, and we know we’ll be working with him again soon.”
Earley has served as COO for Fox Television Group since August 2014, having risen through the ranks from the publicity division of the company. He is one of the longest-serving Fox execs and one of the most well-liked people at the network, known for his easygoing low-key manner and sense of humor. He has a reputation for having a cool head in a storm when tough decisions have to be made.
Earley had a big hand in shaping the public image of the network, first as a publicist and in the past decade as head of marketing. He was one of the early publicists on “The Simpsons” and “The X-Files.” More recently, he spearheaded the campaign that launched “Empire” into the TV stratosphere. “New Girl” and “Bones” were also among the shows that benefitted from his savvy in selling them to their target audiences.
Earley was known to have built a close relationship with Fox Networks Group chairman-CEO Peter Rice after the latter arrived at Fox Broadcasting in 2009 from Fox Searchlight with no experience in TV. He’s known to have been courted by rival networks and studios over the years.
Added Rice, “I have been fortunate to work with Joe for nearly seven years, and one of the things I admire most about him is the deep level of trust and confidence he’s built with our creators, talent and industry peers. His sharp business sense, passion for creativity and ability to inspire and mobilize teams have made him an extraordinary and beloved executive here at Fox — and he will undoubtedly have that same impact no matter what path he chooses to take next.”
In an internal email, Walden and Newman acknowledged Earley’s contributions to the company.
“This is a really tough day, both for us and for Joe,” they wrote. “When we first came over to the network, Joe was one of the first executives we met with, because we knew how important he was to our organization.”