E! Is For Exit - Broadcasting & Cable

E! Is For Exit

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When Comcast launched its takeover attack on Walt Disney Corp., Comcast execs pointed to E! Entertainment Television with pride. Its management of the celeb-obsessed network, they argued, showed that Comcast wasn’t just a savvy cable operator but it could run Disney’s networks, too.

Think again.

E! CEO Mindy Herman is exiting the network under a cloud of charges that she ran E! as a tyrant who enjoyed a lavish baby shower on the company tab -- and shook down her employees for gifts.

Indeed, Herman was forced to repay the cost of the $8,000 baby extravaganza.

These and other juicy tales, including an alleged fight in a strip club parking lot, were contained in a blistering Los Angeles Times article by Sallie Hofmeister that hit the streets hours before Comcast announced that Herman is on her way out.

Her contract calls for a multimillion-dollar payout, a percentage of the appreciation of E!’s value on her watch.

Herman and Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen contend that her exit has nothing to do with the accusations, many made in anonymous letters sent to Comcast and to Disney, a partner in E!

“We did receive a number of anonymous letters,” Cohen says. “The allegations were looked into and resolved to the company’s satisfaction.” Whatever that means.

Herman attributes the accusations to employees resistant to changes she wanted to make. When she was hired in 2000, her mission was to shake up the network. “You’d have to be Gandhi not to have a handful that are disgruntled,” she says. “This organization is more vibrant and alive than it has ever been.”

So why is Herman exiting? She claims she decided to leave after Comcast backed away from Disney and, among other things, consolidated all network ops into one division.

But it was an open secret at Comcast that her contract wasn’t going to be renewed [B&C, April 12].

As Disney and Comcast determine who will ultimately own E!, Cohen says Comcast is happy with E!’s financials and hasn’t picked Herman’s successor. The company is looking for someone with “executive programming experience,” he says.

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