The search is on for Paul Lee’s successor as President of ABC Family. Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks, and president, Disney/ABC Television Group, is expected to start interviews next week with a handful of candidates, both internal and external, according to a network insider.Lee on July 30 was named President of ABC Entertainment Group, vacating the president post at ABC Family. On Aug. 1, Sweeney told B&C she would move “swiftly” to replace him.
The position at ABC Family has certainly grown in importance and profile since Lee took the reins in 2004, now that it’s been built up into a top 10 basic cable network and its chief has been plucked for one of the highest profile gigs in TV as head of ABC. Sources speculated since Steve McPherson resigned July 27 as ABC Entertainment Group chief that former ABC and Lifetime exec Andrea Wong would be certain to find a new spot amid the changes at the Disney/ABC TV Group, perhaps as a likely candidate to succeed Lee at ABC Family. However, multiple sources now say she has been telling people she is not a candidate. Tom Zappala, Executive VP, Program Acquisitions and Scheduling, ABC Cable Networks Group, has also been mentioned as a “dark horse” to succeed Lee.
While the network insider says Sweeney is considering both internal and external candidates, Sweeney has been known to fill top jobs from within her network of exec talent among the Disney/ABC ranks. That’s what she did by installing Lee at ABC, and it is what she did in November in naming Carolina Lightcap, former senior VP of programming and creative affairs and CMO of Disney Channels Latin America, to succeed Rich Ross as president of Disney Channels Worldwide when Ross jumped up to run Walt Disney Studios
One name to keep an eye on who has some internal buzz is Radio Disney Network G.M. Michael Riley. He joined the company in 2008 and has been a key player in the Disney Channel group’s interactive and new platform plays. He has a background in TV, having worked for Turner internationally before coming to Disney.
A Disney/ABC spokesman declined comment.