Telemundo's Don Browne: "I'm going to declare victory."

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Telemundo’s Don Browne announced today that he will retire on June 3, which marks the eight-year anniversary of his arrival at the company. Browne took a little time today to chat with Fates about his decision to retire and why this is exactly the right time for him to exit the company he built.

When Browne arrived at Telemundo back in 2003, “we were in very bad shape,” he says. “We were going out of business.” Today, Telemundo is the second-largest Spanish-language media company in the United States and it’s the fastest growing. It now has its own production company that services not only Telemundo but also Spanish-language networks all over the globe. Where Telemundo was once dependent on other programming providers, today it’s a significant producer on its own.

And just as Browne has been saying for months, the 2010 census results indicate that the future is bright for Telemundo and for Hispanic-focused companies in general, with the U.S. Latino population growing by nearly 30% over the past decade: “This is a really transformational time in our industry and its going to be driven by Hispanic,” says Browne. “The growth is now manifesting itself in the census. Hispanic is hot and it’s the best growth opportunity anyone has in any business.”

Here’s a transcribed interview of the rest of Fates’ conversation with Browne.

Fates: This seems like great time to be running Telemundo. You finally get to reap the benefits of all your work. Why are you leaving now?

Browne: One of my common expressions is ‘it’s complicated to make things simple. I have had the ability over the last three years — and this kicked in when I turned 65 — that at any time, at my control, I could activate my retirement. It’s very rare in this business that you go to 66 or 67. I’m going to be turning 68 next month and my wife, Maria, and I celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary in May. We have never — because it’s in May and there’s sweeps or upfronts or something — actually celebrated our anniversary.

For me personally, this is the perfect time to leave.

Fates: How long have you been thinking about this decision?

Browne: I started thinking about it a year ago. These are the benchmarks I was looking at: My 30th wedding anniversary, turning 68, and my oldest son graduating from law school. I started at Telemundo on June 3 eight years ago. You put all of those things together, in terms of the priorities of my life, the condition of the business, and the strength of the team, and this is the right time and the right place for me to go.

Fates: Obviously, this comes just after Comcast finalized its acquisition of NBCUniversal and Telemundo. Does that transition play any role in this decision?

Browne: It does in a positive way. I have had some extraordinarily good conversations with new NBCU Entertainment Chairman Steve Burke. He has a good understanding of the value of Telemundo and he intends to continue to strategically invest in it. I have a good feeling that Telemundo is in very good hands.

Fates: Is there anyone under consideration to succeed you?

Browne: We’ve assembled an amazing group of people: Joshua Mintz [who was named Telemundo’s senior executive vice president of entertainment in early January] has an amazing collection of experience; Chief Operating Officer Jackie Hernandez is an energizing force; and Telemundo International President Marcos Santana is one of the most brilliant executives I’ve ever worked with. Ron Gordon runs our station group. Those four people are an extraordinary collection of executives who could work anywhere and run any company. I’m sure they are going to look at one of those people internally, but they’ll also look around and see what other talented people are out there.

Fates: Will you remain involved with Telemundo in any way?

Browne: Probably not. I think when you leave, you leave. I will be available for anything that anyone needs, however. I’m sure whoever comes in next will have a lot of questions and I have accumulated a lot of knowledge in the more than 35 years that I’ve been in Hispanic media. I would hope that would have value.

Fates: What’s next?

Browne: I’m going to take an extended celebration to finally celebrate my wedding anniversary. We are going to go to Greece for a month, which is something at which I’ve failed my wife thus far because she’s wanted to go to Greece since we got married. My wife is the most important person in my life. Other than that, I’m really too immersed in this to think about what’s next, but one of the most important things in life is having something to look forward to.

Still, there will never be a better time and place for me to do what I’m doing. I’m leaving everything in great shape, with a new company that really cares for this company. I’m going to declare victory.