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Sagansky calls it quits at Paxson

Exec exploring other opportunities in b'cast arena

Jeff Sagansky has resigned as vice chairman and board member of Paxson Communications, severing ties to the company from which he had become increasingly estranged over the last year.

Company chairman Lowell “Bud” Paxson said Tuesday Sagansky was relinquishing his posts to explore various opportunities in the broadcast industry. Sources said Sagansky may in fact announce his new position within the next few weeks.

Sagansky stepped down in December as chief exec and president of the family-based broadcaster; he joined Paxson to launch its Pax program network in 1998.

Company said it will be initiating a search to fill his board position.

Sagansky previously was prexy of CBS Entertainment and later co-president of Sony Pictures Entertainment under Howard Stringer.

Paxson owns and operate 61 broadcast TV stations (including three operated under time brokerage agreements), which reach all of the top 20 U.S. markets and 41 of the top 50. Company also owns family-skewed Pax Network, which reaches roughly 94 million homes through its TV stations and distribution arrangements with cable and satellite systems and broadcast station affiliates.

The company has been struggling with a hefty debt load and ratings challenges at its program network.

Paxson, in which NBC owns a minority stake, has cut its production expenditures dramatically over the last few months and has been trying to sell some of its stations to reduce cash-flow burdens.

Legal experts said sale prospects are handicapped by a binding program contract between Paxson stations and Bud Paxson’s separately held Christian Network Inc. The pact requires all Pax-owned stations to broadcast CNI programming in the overnight hours in perpetuity.