Peter Liguori out as Discovery COO

Exec was in charge of joint ventures

Peter Liguori has a reputation as an exec who loves to be knee-deep in operating responsibilities. He’s living up to that image with his decision to exit at year’s end his lucrative post as Discovery Communications COO.

Liguori is departing the Silver Spring-Md.-based cable giant primarily because he does not have a sufficiently signficant hands-on role at the company, according to sources close to the situation.

The former topper of Fox entertainment and FX was brought on in January 2010 by Discovery prexy-CEO David Zaslav to help spearhead the launches of three high-profile Discovery joint ventures: Oprah Winfrey’s OWN, Hasbro’s the Hub and the 3D channel 3net, a partnership with Sony and Imax.

Now that all three channels are up and running under the direction of their own CEOs, Liguori felt some frustration at not having enough direct oversight of any one Discovery domain. His post as chief operating officer will be eliminated, Discovery said in announcing the news Wednesday.

Liguori is exiting with about a year to go on his initial three-year contract. He’s maintained a bicoastal life for the past two years and is expected to settle back into Los Angeles full time. He’s sure to be back on shortlists for high-level exec openings in the coming months.

Liguori is leaving a job that paid him a base salary of $2 million this year, according to Discovery’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings. In his first year at Discovery, he earned $1 million in salary and a $1.1 million in bonus, plus another $2.5 million in stock awards and options (though some of those long-term incentive awards may be moot now that he’s leaving).

Statements issued by Zaslav and Liguori on Wednesday sought to portray the split as entirely amicable — which was reinforced by Discovery insiders. Although Liguori was an outsider from Hollywood in a famously insular company, he was generally well liked by Discovery staffers.

Zaslav praised Liguori for his “enthusiasm and creative vision” and thanked him for tackling “some pretty challenging assignments, including the launches of our joint ventures.”

Liguori called his tenure at Discovery “incredibly rewarding” and said it was a “privilege to have contributed to Discovery’s mission and to have helped so many networks and brands grow their ambition and accelerate their creative momentum.”

According to an SEC filing Wednesday, Liguori informed Zaslav of his decision to exit on Nov. 3.