Trio of exex exit Disney TV

Anklings part of Braun-initiated restructuring

Three high-level executives at Walt Disney Network TV are ankling their posts as part of a massive restructuring spearheaded by Lloyd Braun, Disney’s new chairman of Buena Vista TV Prods.

David Neuman, president of Walt Disney Network TV and Touchstone TV; Peter Aronson, executive VP of the same divisions; and David Himelfarb, senior VP of creative affairs, all are expected to leave their jobs.

Aronson and Himelfarb both will become producers on the Disney lot, and Neuman’s future plans still are unclear, sources said. Despite a good working relationship between the two execs, it had been widely anticipated that Neuman would leave his post after Braun arrived.

Few, however, predicted the sweeping changes instituted late last week. Two other execs also will be affected by Braun’s restructuring. Senior VP of business and legal affairs Alan Duke, and VP of business affairs Howard Davine, will have new, unspecified job descriptions with added responsibilities, sources said.

Sources said all the younger, lower-level Disney execs will stay at the studio in their posts.

Disney had no comment, but the changes are coming at a time when the studio is the subject of widespread publicity over the number of executives leaving the company. With Disney/ABC Cable Networks president Geraldine Laybourne and ABC Broadcasting president Steve Burke both announcing new career plans, a total of five top Disney execs, including three division presidents, are departing within a single weeklong period.

The Disney TV shakeup is not nearly as surprising, though, because executive changes generally follow a shift at the top. Braun was hired for the highest Disney TV post in March, and most exec movement in the network TV business is delayed until June, after pilot season and the announcements of the networks’ fall schedules.

Sources said Braun will begin this week to focus on filling the slots that are being vacated. But rumored candidates to replace some of the departing Disney execs already are floating, including NBC’s VP of primetime series Stephen McPherson and Paramount Network TV’s executive VP of creative affairs Tom Mazza. NBC’s senior VP of primetime series, David Nevins, also is rumored to be a contender, although sources at the web said he recently reupped there.

Neuman was on vacation and could not be reached for comment. Braun had no comment, and Aronson could not be reached late Friday. While some industry observers were surprised that the well-regarded Aronson was leaving his exec post, sources close to him said he has had plans to move back into producing for awhile.

Himelfarb has similar plans. “I went there (to Disney) originally as a producer, and Lloyd has said he’d love to see me producing again,” Himelfarb told Daily Variety.

Braun’s changes are designed to get the studio back on its feet and to increase production for Disney-owned network, ABC, as well as other outlets. Disney got three new series on the fall schedule, two from its deal with Imagine TV, and one new show, “Sports Night,” for ABC.

In terms of total network series production for fall, Disney ranked behind Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox TV, Columbia TriStar TV and Paramount. Its only big hit left, “Home Improvement,” may be in its last season.