Crown Media CEO and longtime cable executive Henry Schleiff will step down as CEO of the Hallmark Channel parent on May 31, replaced by executive vice president of advertising sales Bill Abbott.
According to a prepared statement, Schleiff decided to resign after discussion in which he indicated that he had accomplished what he was brought in to do at the network and expressed a desire to return to "helping smaller cable networks achieve their potential."
Schleiff was hired by Hallmark in October 2006, shortly after stepping down as CEO of Court TV after 50%-owner Time Warner Inc. purchased the remaining interest in the channel.
Under Schleiff's guidance, Hallmark Channel has grown ratings - it is consistently among the top 10 ad-supported networks in primetime - and subscribers. The channel is currently available in 86 million homes and its Hallmark Movie Channel is in 16 million homes.
"I believe Henry and his management team have created a balance of original programming, feature films and classic TV series that makes Hallmark Channel unique," said Crown co-chairman Donald Hall in a prepared statement. We have been fortunate to have had someone with his talent and commitment on our team and we wish him success in his future endeavors."
Both Hallmark and Schleiff said the split was amicable.
"It has been both a pleasure and a privilege to work with an organization that has one of the world's great brands and with a group of people who are dedicated to protecting and expanding it," said Schleiff in a statement. "Indeed, I will always consider my collaboration with the extraordinarily talented team at Hallmark Channel in bringing the network to its current record profits and successful position as among the most rewarding experiences of my career. Along with great colleagues, I have been fortunate to play a role in the growth of two very different cable networks in recent years and, accordingly, I anticipate exploring new industry challenges with similar success."
Abbott, who will assume the post of president and CEO on June 1, is a 20-year veteran of the television business. Prior to joining Crown Media, Abbott held numerous management roles with Fox Family Worldwide, including Fox Family Channel and Fox Kids Network.