ABC News President David Westin Steps Down After 13 Years

Longtime chief said he’ll stay until year’s end amid rumors his departure is part of a potential takeover by Bloomberg

ABC news president David Westin announced on Monday that he was stepping down after over 13 years on the job. 

In a memo to his staff, the well-respected Westin said he informed Walt Disney company boss Bob Iger and Disney/ABC Television president Anne Sweeney of his decision to leave "about a month ago."

"I’ve always admired those few who know when it’s time to move on. This is the right time for me," he said. 

ABC News has been hit hard by the economic crisis, with the network struggling more than other news organizations because it lacks a cable news outlet.

About 350 staffers got the axe during a round of layoffs that culminated at the end of April. At the time, Westin described the cuts as part of a "new digital day" at the news division.

With all of the recent upheaval at ABC, rumors have become commonplace in the newsroom. One oft-circulated whisper has Bloomberg News interested in scooping up ABC's entire news division.

An individual at ABC News said Monday that inside the newsroom staffers wondered whether Westin's departure might be related to a potential takeover by Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, Westin said he was moving on to pursue other opportunities. 

"As rewarding as I’ve found my time here, there are some other things I want to do professionally — things that I cannot explore while fulfilling my responsibilities here," Westin said. 

Westin will remain at ABC until the end of the year. 

"I have agreed to remain your leader through the end of the year to ensure that Anne has the time she needs to find the right successor and that there is an orderly transition," he said.

Sweeney sent a staff memo of her own that described Westin as a "tireless advocate for ABC News" who ""helped reinvent our News organization, and positioned us for great success going forward."

 "While it will be sad to see David leave, his desire to pursue other professional endeavors is understandable, and commendable, and I know you’ll join me in wishing him nothing but the best. I’ll be announcing a new leader for ABC News in the near future," Sweeney said.

In his memo, Westin acknowledged the rocky end to his tenure in his note to staff, but said he remains "confident" about the future of ABC News. 

"Over the last nine months, we’ve put in place new anchors on all of our programs. At the same time, we went through a very difficult transformation made necessary by changes in our business and its economics. I am confident ABC News is better positioned for the future than it has been at any time since I came here in March of 1997," Westin said. 

Westin's exit may indeed be part of shuffle leading up to a Bloomberg deal, but it would certainly be understandable if he was telling the truth when he said he simply left to pursue other opportunities. Firing people at a news company must get pretty draining after a while.  

Full text of Westin's memo is below …

From: Westin, David L.
To: [REDACTED] 
Sent: Mon Sep 06 20:46:37 2010
Subject: Transition

Dear Colleague,

A month ago I told Bob Iger and Anne Sweeney that the time has come for me to step down as President of ABC News. Leading you has been a great privilege and a solemn responsibility — a responsibility that I tried to fulfill for over thirteen years by doing what I believed was best for this important news organization. I will root for your continued success long after I am gone.

I’ve always admired those few who know when it’s time to move on. This is the right time for me. Over the last nine months, we’ve put in place new anchors on all of our programs. At the same time, we went through a very difficult transformation made necessary by changes in our business and its economics. I am confident ABC News is better positioned for the future than it has been at any time since I came here in March of 1997.

As rewarding as I’ve found my time here, there are some other things I want to do professionally — things that I cannot explore while fulfilling my responsibilities here. I’m announcing my decision now so that I can pursue those possibilities, something I couldn’t do in fairness to all of you until I’d told you of my plans to step down. I have agreed to remain your leader through the end of the year to ensure that Anne has the time she needs to find the right successor and that there is an orderly transition. So, I’m not going anywhere for the time being. I will need your support during this interim period to make sure that we continue to move forward.

I have only the highest regard for the company of which we are a part, for its leadership, and – most important – for all of you. I am grateful for your letting me be part of this great organization for so long.

David  

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