Kurtzman has been with Fox since 1997 and is one of the most highly regarded business affairs executives in the TV biz. Kurtzman and Cassidy, president of creative affairs, have jointly run 20th TV together since July.
“Howard is an extraordinary leader, strategist, colleague and friend,” said Dana Walden, chairman of Disney Television Studios/ABC Entertainment. “Working with him has been one of the true highlights of my career and that is a sentiment which is shared by every executive, creator and representative who has interacted with him over the past three decades.”
Kurtzman’s retirement comes after a period of realignment for 20th TV and other Disney TV production banners following the Mouse’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox in March.
Cassidy has been a rising star at 20th TV for the past few years. She was upped to president of creative affairs in July after another longtime 20th TV executive, Jonnie Davis, was named president of ABC Studios. After Kurtzman’s retirement, Cassidy will serve as president of 20th Century Fox TV. She joined 20th TV in 2009 as VP of comedy.
Kurtzman has been eyeing his retirement date for the past two years. Walden said she and others “begged” him to stay through the complex acquisition and integration process with Disney.
Disney Television Studios president Craig Hunegs — who was a counterpart of Kurtzman’s for years in his prior role as business affairs boss of Warner Bros. TV — praised the executive’s skill and experience.
“Howard is a hall-of-fame TV executive who has been responsible for some of the most impressive and groundbreaking deals in the business,” Hunegs said. “He’s a great leader and mentor and we’ll miss his terrific sense of humor.”
Kurtzman was a key player in the dramatic expansion of 20th TV that began in the mid-1990s, right around the time he arrived on the Fox lot after a long tenure with Stephen J. Cannell Prods. Kurtzman came to Fox as part of News Corp.’s 1997 acquisition of New World Entertainment, the former parent of Cannell Prods. He was promoted to president of business operations for 20th TV in 2014. Kurtzman is married to Sharon Klein, exec VP of casting for Disney Television Studios/FX Entertainment.
Kurtzman is known as a strategic thinker. He was part of a small group of business affairs executives who helped sort out new compensation formulas that helped bring an end to the 100-day writers strike in February 2008.
In reflecting on his run at 20th TV, Kurtzman cited the satisfaction of working on a number of the big hits that the studio has fielded during the past three decades.
“20th has been much more than my employer for all these years. It’s also been an incredibly vibrant and exciting place to work, where we accomplished so many great things together, from ‘Modern Family’ to ‘Family Guy,’ ‘Glee,’ ‘24’ and most recently ‘This Is Us,’ to name only a few,” Kurtzman said. “Those close to me know that I have been talking about stepping down for quite some time, and I am so grateful to Dana and Craig for their generosity through this process. This career has been an incredible ride – an E-ticket ride, in fact.”
Here is the memo that Kurtzman sent to 20th TV staffers on Tuesday:
As you’ve heard that with Dana and Craig’s blessing and my deepest gratitude, I will be setting my retirement date for this June. Many of you know this is something I’ve been looking forward to for a while, and now I feel the time is right.
20th has been much more than my employer for all these years, it has been my home. So many of you have become family members, both literally and in every other sense. Of course I met Sharon here, and Dana and Gary, Jennifer and Bert, and so many others who became not only terrific bosses and trusted colleagues but also my most treasured friends.
We’ve had such a run together, from “Modern Family” to “Family Guy,” “Glee,” “24” and most recently “This Is Us” to name only a very few. What an incredible ride! We are all lucky to be working in this golden age of television together, and I am especially grateful to have shared this time with you, the best executives, colleagues and friends in the business.
I am especially grateful to Dana and Craig for their generosity and support, and to Jonnie and Carolyn, two of the best partners I could have wished for.
As for me, I just want everyone to know that while I may be leaving a job that has nourished me these many years, I am really looking forward to retirement. We all have lists of things we’d like to do or try if only we had the time, and I am lucky to have the luxury of tackling a few of mine.
My departure date is still months away, so this is not “goodbye.” More a “thank you,” and a moment to say that I truly believe the best is yet to come, for all of us.