David Westin is stepping down as president of ABC News. Westin, who has been at the helm of ABC News for 13 years, announced his impending departure to ABC News staff in an e-mail Monday night (Sept. 6).
Westin characterized his tenure at ABC News as a "great privilege and a solemn responsibility."
Anne Sweeney, president, Disney-ABC Television Group, in her own e-mail, called Westin a "tireless advocate" for the news division guiding it "through some of the most seismic industry, and divisional, changes imaginable."
Indeed, ABC News earlier this year completed a drastic 25% reduction in its staff, shedding more than 300 jobs. At the conclusion of those cuts, Dave Davis, who came to ABC News in 2008 from WABC to serve as Westin's second-in-command, went back to WABC. He resumed his post as general manager of ABC's flagship O&O. And as recently as last week, Westin announced an executive restructuring reclaiming direct stewardship of several broadcasts including World News with Diane Sawyer, Good Morning America and 20/20.
ABC News has struggled to stay viable with broadcasts including Good Morning America and World News stuck as perennial also-rans behind NBC's Today and Nightly Newswith Brian Williams. The news division had barely managed to stay profitable, say sources, although the cuts are expected to get ABC News out of the red.
Westin will not step down until the end of the year. But his announcement, which blindsided many at the news division, comes on the heels of the abrupt exit of ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson, marking turnover in two integral positions at Disney-ABC.
Paul Lee, the former president of ABC Family, has replaced McPherson. And Sweeny noted in her e-mail to staff that she would be announcing a new president of ABC News in the "near future."
Westin's e-mail follows:
A month ago I told Bob Iger and Anne Sweeney that the time has come for me to step down as President of ABC News. Leading you has been a great privilege and a solemn responsibility -- a responsibility that I tried to fulfill for over thirteen years by doing what I believed was best for this important news organization. I will root for your continued success long after I am gone.
I've always admired those few who know when it's time to move on. This is the right time for me. Over the last nine months, we've put in place new anchors on all of our programs. At the same time, we went through a very difficult transformation made necessary by changes in our business and its economics. I am confident ABC News is better positioned for the future than it has been at any time since I came here in March of 1997.
As rewarding as I've found my time here, there are some other things I want to do professionally -- things that I cannot explore while fulfilling my responsibilities here. I'm announcing my decision now so that I can pursue those possibilities, something I couldn't do in fairness to all of you until I'd told you of my plans to step down. I have agreed to remain your leader through the end of the year to ensure that Anne has the time she needs to find the right successor and that there is an orderly transition. So, I'm not going anywhere for the time being. I will need your support during this interim period to make sure that we continue to move forward.
I have only the highest regard for the company of which we are a part, for its leadership, and - most important - for all of you. I am grateful for your letting me be part of this great organization for so long.