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King World CEO ankles amid deal

Chairman King to assume post

King World Prods. CEO Michael King plans to ankle his management post at the company he helped build — a move directly linked to the syndie giant’s pending acquisition by CBS.

Documents filed this week with the Securities and Exchange Commission confirm that Michael King will give up his post in September 2000, taking on a new role as an advisor to the company. His brother Roger King, who is currently chairman of KW, will take over as sole CEO following Michael’s departure.

The acquisition of King World will make CBS the largest syndicator of TV shows in the U.S.

Administrative role

Michael’s role at King World has focused primarily on the administrative side, while Roger specialized on sales and relationships with local stations.

Neither Michael nor Roger King was available for comment Thursday.

The brothers will remain primarily responsible for the sales and distribution decisions for KW stalwarts “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” through the year 2006. But after Aug. 31, 2000, Michael will be allowed to pursue other ventures outside of King World “as long as they don’t interfere with his responsibilities for King World.”

CBS and KW will have first dibs on any projects Michael puts in development.

Should a new series be created before the Aug. 31, 2000 turnover, the employment agreement provides for “a new series bonus” of $750,000 to each brother for any new firstrun strip they develop that goes to air within 18 months.

Departure was planned

When the Eye’s $2.5 billion purchase of King World was announced last April, CBS and KW execs downplayed speculation about changes in the management structure of the company after the sale.

In fact, Eye and KW officials Thursday said that Michael’s departure had always been a part of the purchase agreement. The reps said his exit hadn’t been disclosed because it was not “material” information. They put the accent on the continuity of the relationship with Michael even after his official departure.

A CBS spokesman declined to discuss the specific reasons behind Michael’s exit.

“We’re pleased that Michael King has a long-term relationship with CBS,” the spokesman said. “We look forward to working with him for many years to come.”

One KW insider said Michael chose to exit because he felt there was no role for him in the new company, which has the King brothers reporting to CBS Television CEO Leslie Moonves.

CBS officials confirmed that Roger’s skills as salesman were more coveted by the company than Michael’s role as administrator.

King World earns an annual net profit of about $200 million, almost as much as CBS is expected to earn itself in 1999. King World’s money-minting talk and gameshow franchises (such as “The Oprah Winfrey Show”) are tied up for three or more years on rival stations, primarily the ABC O&O group, but the CBS-owned stations did sign on last year for King World’s hit revival of the “Hollywood Squares” gameshow.

Over the past year, King World moved to broaden its scope by expanding into kidvid, network and telefilm production, inking a rich deal with Barbra Streisand’s Barwood Films. It also plowed tens of millions into the launch of two new syndie strips, “Hollywood Squares” and “The Roseanne Show.”

(Josef Adalian and John Dempsey contributed to this report.)

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