Ford is exiting the post he’s held since 2015 because of the potential for conflicts of interest arising from his role as head of programming for digital multicast outlets Justice Network and Quest Network. The channels were bought out for $77 million in May by Tegna, which now has plans to commission original unscripted series from the same pool of producers that Ford represents through NPact. Ford has been with Justice and Quest since late 2014 but the channels to date have only carried library programming acquired from Turner Broadcasting and others.
Michelle Van Kempen, NPact’s head of policy and development, will serve as interim general manager while the org’s executive committee begins a search for Ford’s replacement.
Founders of NPact credited Ford with growing the organization’s roster to more than 100 member companies. The association was founded in 2014 as the Nonfiction Producers Association with eight charter members.
“John has been a peerless leader, helping transform a nascent organization with big dreams – and many strong, rowdy opinions – into a mature powerhouse association. With some exciting opportunities on the horizon, John made the difficult decision to step down; he has our immense gratitude and best wishes for the future,” the executive committee said in a statement. “During the transition, we know NPact will be in great hands with Michelle Van Kempen whose contributions have encompassed not just outreach to the community and expanding our membership, but creating opportunities and access to innovative companies and services from which we all benefit.”
Ford, formerly a programming executive at Discovery and National Geographic, replaced the Nonfiction Producers Association’s first g.m., industry veteran Rick Feldman, in July 2015. The Nonfiction Producers Association merged in 2017 with rival trade group PactUS to form NPact.
“It has been an honor to work with the creative entrepreneurs who literally built the unscripted business from scratch,” Ford said. “The challenges of independent production are unrelenting, and to see the fellowship among NPact members is truly humbling. I couldn’t be prouder of my time with NPact and know Michelle and the team will continue moving the association forward with great energy and innovation.”