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Report: Extortion Plot Prompts Sassa Exit at Hearst

Hearst Entertainment & Syndication president Scott Sassa has left the company, The New York Post reported late Wednesday, in light of a scandal involving a woman forwarding to his colleagues salacious text messages he allegedly made to her.

The departure leaves Hearst without its highest-ranking executive overseeing the company’s entertainment holdings, which ranged from a minority stake in cable networks including ESPN via joint venture with Walt Disney Co. to half of Mark Burnett Prods. At Hearst since 2010, Sassa has a long resume of top posts at media companies including a period as president of NBC Entertainment in 1998, not to mention stints at Turner Broadcasting, Fox and Friendster.

The report details an effort by an unnamed woman to pressure the 53-year-old executive to pay her to avoid having her reveal sexually explicit comments she claimed he made to her. Hearst execs including CEO Frank Bennack received the text messages, which triggered his departure.

A rep for the company did not confirm the story to the newspaper, which reported that Sassa has already updated his personal Facebook page to reflect he is no longer at Hearst. His biography no longer appears on a website for the company, which has yet to respond to an inquiry made by Variety.

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