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Ben Silverman, Electus Part Ways as Partners Buy Out Founder

For Ben Silverman, the Electus era is over.

Silverman has formally bowed out as chairman of the company he founded with IAC in 2009. Chris Grant and Drew Buckley remain at the helm as CEO and COO, respectively.

The former partners this week finalized a deal to buy out Silverman’s ownership interest in the company although he will remain a profit participant in numerous TV series produced during his tenure. The confirmation of Silverman’s exit from Electus came on the same day Apple confirmed the producer is working with Will.i.am on an unscripted original series that follows a handful of people through the process of developing apps for Apple.

Grant and Buckley said the split with Silverman is amicable and emphasized that they will remain in business together in many respects through the ongoing projects. It’s no secret that Silverman had been detached from the day-to-day business at Electus for some time while Grant and Buckley have been firmly in charge. Grant and Buckley continue to hold stakes in the company that is majority owned by Barry Diller’s IAC.

“It’s definitely bittersweet for us,” Grant said. “Drew and I are completely committed to building Electus into the powerhouse that it is becoming.”

The timing was dictated by the end of Silverman’s contract. Silverman said he felt the time was right to move on to a new venture. He noted that he spent about the same amount of time — roughly seven years — at the helm of his previous company, Reveille, which wound up selling to Elisabeth Murdoch’s Shine Group in early 2008 after Silverman became chairman of NBCUniversal Entertainment. He launched Electus after a two-year run at the Peacock where he had to weather the storms of the writers strike and the global financial meltdown at a time when NBC was already in the ratings cellar.

Silverman said the booming global demand for content in its many forms makes it a good time to seek out new partners and convention-bending projects.

“It’s an amazing time for creative people and storytellers who also know the business side,” Silverman said. “It’s a rare moment in time. I want to go out and found another company.”

Silverman, Grant and Buckley put a positive gloss on the news of the split, but there’s no question that there was some tension leading up to Silverman’s formal departure.

Sources said that as Electus started to grow, the company required the kind of hands-on management that led Grant and Buckley to gradually assume greater responsibilities. That meant that Silverman’s exit from the partnership was a matter of time as his focus turned to future new ventures.

Grant had been a lieutenant of Silverman’s for more than 20 years, first at William Morris Agency when Silverman shook up the TV biz by championing the development of formats from the U.K. such as “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” He was also an instrumental player at Reveille.

Buckley has known Silverman for 25 years. He helped Silverman draft the original business plan for Reveille although he was not part of the company. Grant and Buckley were quick to stress that they remain friendly with Silverman, with Buckley calling him “a true inspiration.”

Electus has grown rapidly during the past few years and at present is home to 19 series including NBC’s “Running Wild with Bear Grylls,” E!’s “House of DVF,” VH1’s “Mob Wives,” CW’s “Jane the Virgin” and a slew of YouTube programs. Grant and Buckley are heading off to the MipTV conference in Cannes next week with the goal of finalizing deals for a host of new projects.

“What has set us apart in a market where everyone’s looking to figure out new and interesting and innovative ways to make content, what has set us part is the work we’ve done with brands, talent and IP,” Grant said. “We have more product in the pipeline this year than we’ve ever had.”

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