Debmar-Mercury Adds to its Ranks

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It’s good to see that someone in syndication is hiring.

Debmar-Mercury’s been happily hiring many Warner Bros.’ veterans, and if you’re going to stock up on employees from one company, Warner Bros. is not a bad way to go.

First, Debmar Co-Presidents Mort Marcus and Ira Bernstein hired Lenny Bart to run their operations. Bart is a 22-year-veteran of Warner Bros. He was responsible for Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution’s fee spot business and played a principal role overseeing such unsung functions as building business plans, recommending syndicated program acquisitions, managing budgets, creating systems and forecasting revenues.

In addition, Debmar-Mercury is getting ready to launch its new talk show, Wendy Williams, this July, and it added a long list of producers and executives that have worked on Warner Bros.-produced shows, including Ellen, Extra, Rosie and Caroline Rhea. Warner Bros. is known for producing high-quality talk shows that put a lot of money on the screen.

Jason Gabel and Suzanne Bass will be supervising producers. Gabel’s last gig was with Ellen, while Bass comes over from NBC Universal’s Martha Stewart, although she’s also worked on Rosie and Extra. Deb Miller will direct the show – she also worked on Rosie, as well as Martha and other shows.

This doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with why Debmar’s finding so many former Warners’ employees to hire but, like most companies, there are more of them out there these days.

Ken Werner, president of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, has been streamlining his division since he took over in January 2008. In January 2009, the overall company, which employed about 8,000 worldwide at that time, said it would be eliminating 800 positions or 10% of its work force. Ultimately, while still difficult for those that lost jobs, that total number is somewhat inflated. About 300 people were actually laid off. Another 200 of that total were open positions that remained unfilled, and another 300 positions – such as accounting and IT - -were outsourced to a third-party supplier, CapGemini, which had jobs to offer to many of those employees.  

In the end, Warner Bros.’ layoffs were far less than NBC Universal’s or Viacom’s. And in times like these, no one should be surprised that companies are taking the opportunity to cut the fat.

Still, it’s reassuring to see at least one syndication company – Debmar-Mercury – adding instead of subtracting. Here’s hoping that Wendy’s national launch is as successful as last summer’s six-week test.

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