Less than two weeks after Anne Sweeny said she would not renew her contract to pursue a career in television directing, The Walt Disney Co. tapped ABC News president Ben Sherwood to assume her role as co-chairman, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney/ABC Television Group, beginning on Feb. 1, 2015.
Sweeney will remain in that capacity through January, while Sherwood, who will continue to oversee the news operation until a successor is found, will immediately begin the transition toward his new role.
An award-winning journalist, best-selling author and digital media entrepreneur, Sherwood has served as president of ABC News since December 2010, and also has oversight of ABC News Radio, ABCNEWS.com, satellite service NewsOne and ABC News NOW.
In October 2011, ABC News launched a partnership with Yahoo! that now reaches nearly 100 million people a month, with the online network residing as the top service for the past 25 months.
Under Sherwood’s tutelage, Good Morning America ended NBC's Today’s 16-year run as America's top morning program, a position GMA currently retains. He first joined ABC News as a producer for Primetime Live. He left to join NBC News in 1997, before returning in 2004 as executive producer of GMA. He is the author of two novels—The Man Who Ate the 747 and The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud.
In 2013, ABC News and Univision launched Fusion, the joint news and lifestyle network aimed at U.S. Hispanics.
“Ben is one of those unique executives who combine rich creative experience with great business acumen,” said Walt Disney Co. chairman and CEO Robert Iger in a statement. “He’s also focused, strategic, and competitive, as evidenced by the success of GMA, the Yahoo deal that delivered ABC News online dominance, and his vision behind our new cable and digital joint venture, Fusion. These reasons, and many others, make Ben the ideal candidate to oversee the future of the Disney/ABC Television Group.”
Noted Sweeney: "It was Ben’s intense passion and incredible insight that made us confident he’d do great things as president of ABC News. Over the years, he has moved from success-to-success, and helped create a more vibrant, collaborative and powerful News division that embraces innovation and risk-taking. Ben’s now set to bring those same attributes to bear for the larger group, and I could not be more thrilled. This announcement simply highlights the fact that our talent and succession planning process works."
Sherwood said he is thankful for the opportunity and looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead. "I am honored and humbled that Bob has entrusted me with this great responsibility and amazing opportunity,” he said. “I'm also deeply grateful to Anne, who has built and led a powerhouse division over the last 10 years. I am looking forward to her counsel and wisdom during this transition period.
“I must also thank the remarkable people of ABC News who inspire me every day with their creativity, dedication and spirit,” Sherwood continued. “I will keep their commitment to excellence and their fierce competitiveness firmly in mind as I move forward to meet this exciting new challenge."