Execs desert old media for new


Pat Fili-Krushel admits, a month ago she hadn't even heard of Healtheon/WebMD. Now, she' s running its consumer division of Web sites, TV programs and a cable network.

"With traditional media, it's ready, aim, fire," CBS Inc. President Mel Karmazin observed recently. "With new media, it's fire." Indeed, Fili-Krushel' s resignation last week from the presidency of the ABC Television Network to join those charting the frontiers of cyberspace, is one indication of just how fast-moving the new-media world is.

But Fili-Krushel's departure also spotlights the growing exodus of old-media executives looking for new challenges and rewards in the world of new media.

It's a trend that experts see growing as the potential of new media is spelled out in specific business plans. Scores of former traditional media executives have already made the leap. Why all the defectors? According to executive recruiter Brad Marks, it's not for the perks. "They re trading in the company cars and the first-class travel for a chance to buy the airplane," he says. But it's more than just greed, he adds. "Many of them have been doing the same old thing for so long, and they've reached a certain level of success and are looking for a new challenge. They get turned on to a new business and develop a real passion for it."

In Fili-Krushel's case, a new opportunity was part of the reason for her move. But she also decided that moving to the West Coast-per a plan to move most of ABC's senior executives there by year's end-was not in the best interests of her or her family.

ABC has targeted some 200 positions-half of them executive slots-to relocate from New York to Burbank, where parent Disney is based, by Sept. 30. Of the 100 executives, 45 have said they will relocate and 55 have decided to leave the company. But the network, and most of its employees, will remain based in New York.

Fili-Krushel is the most senior of those opting out. Last year Alan Wurtzel, the company's senior research and business development executive, jumped to NBC. Earlier this year, David Downs, a senior administrator on Fili-Krushel' s staff, left for a New York-based job at Univision. Valerie Schaer, a daytime senior vice president, left for USA Networks.

Disney president Robert Iger named Alex Wallau as acting head of the network until a permanent replacement is found. Sources say Iger will probably name someone to the post of ABC Inc. first and let that executive deal with filling the network vacancy. Iger may also rethink the current structure at ABC, sources say. A reorganization is possible, but that has not been decided yet.

Robert Callahan is said to be high on the list of candidates for the ABC Inc. job, sources say. Another possibility is the return of Steven Bornstein to that post. Bornstein held the post briefly before being named to head Go.com, Disney' s Internet portal company. But others say it would take some strong convincing on Iger' s part for Disney head Michael Eisner to bless a return of Bornstein to his old post.

"What they said to me was they need some grown-ups over here to run a business," says Fili-Krushel of those approached her. "They've been so busy so quickly putting together things. They' ve been making one deal after another for the past 18 months, and they really need someone that can run it and execute." Thus, she said, "I decided to bet on myself. I'm excited."