Good Morning America executive producer Ben Sherwood will leave the show in October, the network said late Friday. His departure comes two weeks after ABC News tapped GMA co-host Charlie Gibson to be the new solo anchor for World News Tonight and amid rumblings that morning star Diane Sawyer may be looking to get out of her contract.
The news hits at a pivotal time in the morning-news wars. With Katie Couric gone from NBC’s Today, GMA is in a good position to make a run at the No. 1 spot. A year ago, GMA was within striking distance, but Today has opened up a wider lead in recent months.
In a note to staffers, Sherwood said he is returning to Los Angeles with his family for personal reasons. In doing so, Sherwood is walking away from a seven-figure contract with considerable time remaining on his deal, according to a news executive familiar with the situation.
“We all know the morning-TV battle enters a whole new era in September. Indeed, we’re making big plans for the summer and fall season ahead,” Sherwood said in his
e-mail. “I plan to lead the fight through the summer with everything I’ve got, and I’ll work closely with my successor and the whole team for a smooth transition in the fall.”
ABC has not picked a replacement for Sherwood, but, if the new EP arrives before October, Sherwood could exit earlier.
ABC News President David Westin has told Sherwood that, if possible, he would like to have him return to the division, spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said Friday. “We would be very happy for Ben to have stayed at GMA for a long time. He is a class act and a great producer who has produced the two most successful seasons in that show’s history.”