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Ben Sherwood to Leave Disney After 21st Century Fox Deal Is Complete (EXCLUSIVE)

Ben Sherwood is preparing to leave the Walt Disney Co. after Disney completes its acquisition of 21st Century Fox.

Sherwood, who has served as Disney’s top TV executive as president of Disney/ABC Television Group and co-chair of the Media Networks division, had been considering options for a new role during the past two months after it became clear that Fox’s Peter Rice is poised to take on his duties as leader of Disney’s TV operations, with the exception of ESPN. 

Disney chief Bob Iger sought to keep Sherwood in the fold with a new position overseeing all unscripted content and news for the enlarged company, given his background as a former president of ABC News and an executive producer of “Good Morning America.”

Sherwood was said to have been intrigued at the possibility of overseeing an expanded Sky News, which was originally expected to come into the Disney fold through the 21st Century Fox acquisition. But now that Comcast has prevailed in its mano-a-mano battle with Disney for Sky, that element of the job is off the table. Sherwood delayed his final decision to stay or go until the fate of Sky was known.

Sherwood declined to comment for this story.

Sherwood has headed Disney/ABC TV Group since early 2015, when he took the reins from longtime Disney executive Anne Sweeney. ABC has been in a rocky patch during Sherwood’s tenure although it gained momentum with new programming in the past two seasons. He championed ABC’s revival of “American Idol” last season amid skepticism in and outside of ABC, and the talent competition turned out to be a solid player for the for the network, albeit an expensive one.

On the cable side, Sherwood steered the former ABC Family cabler through a name change to Freeform and a big push to reach its young adult audience on the streaming and mobile platforms that increasingly drive viewing for younger demographics.

A Rhodes Scholar, Sherwood came up the ranks at ABC News and NBC News in the late 1980s and ’90s. He was named exec producer of ABC’s “Good Morning America” in 2004. He left the show in 2006 but returned as president of ABC News in 2010. On his watch, “GMA” rose in the ratings to top its a.m. arch rival “Today” in 2012 for the first time in 16 years. That momentum propelled Sherwood’s rise to the top of Disney/ABC TV Group.

Sherwood’s varied career has included penning novels, 2000’s “The Man Who Ate the 747” 2004’s “The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud,” which was adapted as a feature by Universal Pictures in 2010. Sherwood wrote the 2009 nonfiction book “The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science That Could Save Your Life.” He had been in the process of raising money for a digital media venture tied to “Survivors Club” at the time that he was recruited back to ABC News. 

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