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Cathy Payne is stepping down from her role as the boss of Endemol Shine International. Payne has been with the company, in its various guises, for almost 30 years. Staffers were told of her exit Thursday afternoon.

A source said that her departure, which will happen early in the new year, is not directly related to the on-and-off saga of the sale of Disney- and Apollo-owned Endemol Shine. A spokesman told Variety that the company will recruit a replacement.

Payne was head of Southern Star International, moving to Endemol when it acquired the business to run program sales. After the merger of Endemol with Shine she then took the reins of the combined Endemol Shine distribution business.

Payne told her team in a memo that she “knew that I wanted 2020 to bring a brand new challenge.” She added: “As a sales team and group of colleagues, there is no one to match you all. My only focus, however, now is only Mipcom next week and closing out 2019 to be our biggest possible and to help with the transition.”

In a note to staff, chief strategy and commercial officer Wim Ponnet said Payne had notified him and CEO Sophie Turner Laing of her decision to leave months back.

“Joining with the acquisition of Southern Star in 2009, first with Endemol Distribution Worldwide, and then as CEO of Endemol Shine International, Cathy has rightfully earned her reputation as one of the most highly regarded, commercially astute executives in the business,” Ponnet said. “Her dedication, tenacity and competitive nature is legendary, and her legacy as an all-time Endemol Shine great is assured.”

Payne is one of the most seasoned execs in the international distribution business. “Cathy is characteristically laser-focused on making Mipcom and 2019’s year-end as successful as possible,” Ponnet added. “She will then also help with a smooth and detailed handover for ESI colleagues and clients as part of the overall sales division.”

Turner Laing paid tribute to the outgoing exec in a memo. “Cathy is a simply brilliant sales leader and her contribution has been beyond exceptional,” she said. “But I’m also respectful of her wishes for a new challenge. As you will all expect, she has been singularly focused on wanting to see us through this upcoming Mipcom and year end. So, full tributes will be on ice…but just for now.

“As Wim said, planning is underway on transition to the next chapter. More to follow in time, along with a suitably significant sendoff (or indeed several) for Cathy when the time comes.”

TBI first reported the news of Payne leaving Endemol Shine.