Everett H. Erlick, chief lawyer for ABC Inc. since 1972, said Monday that his decision to resign from the company early next year is partly because ABC Board Chairman Leonard Goldenson won't be running it anymore.
ABC, which is being bought for $3.5 billion by Capital Cities Communications, had confirmed Friday that Erlick plans to leave ABC Inc., where he now is an executive vice president, a member of the board and the company's general counsel.
Erlick, in a phone interview from New York, said his planned departure from ABC isn't directly due to Capital Cities' impending takeover, but rather because he wanted "to do some different things that will be interesting and challenging."
But he conceded that a key factor in his decision to leave ABC was that Goldenson won't "have an active role" in running ABC when the acquisition is completed. That, he said, "helped condition my thinking" about leaving the company.
"Leonard and I helped build this company," Erlick said. "We've had an association for 25 years. I've had total freedom and support in what I've done because of that." And, he said, "It's unlikely I could have that same kind of relationship with anyone else in the (new) company."
The new company will be known as Capital Cities/ABC Inc., with Capital Cities Board Chairman Thomas S. Murphy its board chairman and Fred Pierce, now president of ABC Inc., the vice chairman.
Goldenson would become the chairman of the new company's executive committee.
Shareholders of both ABC and Capital Cities approved the proposed takeover in June, but Federal Communications Commission approval of it still is required. ABC said Jan. 6 is the earliest date that the merger could take effect.
Erlick, 63, said he is considering several offers from major Washington law firms, Wall Street investment firms and one company he described as a "major conglomerate in entertainment and broadcasting."
The offers are to serve as a consultant on broadcasting, or as a board member, Erlick said, adding that there also is a possibility he could continue at ABC as a consultant. He declined to identify the other companies, saying that "it wouldn't be appropriate" for him to do so while he still works at ABC.
No successor for Erlick has been named yet, and probably won't be announced until after completion of the Capital Cities-ABC merger, an ABC spokesman has said.
Erlick's planned departure from ABC comes at a time when the company says it is laying off from 300 to 350 employees as part of an effort--ordered well before the announcement of the Capital Cities takeover--to cut costs at the broadcasting conglomerate.
Both he and a company spokesman say that his planned resignation is unrelated to the layoffs at ABC, which says it employs about 13,000 persons in operations ranging from television to publishing.
There have been rumors at ABC's West Coast operations that as many as 3,000 employees throughout ABC are facing layoffs, although one middle-management employee who asked not to be identified conceded that this could simply be "company paranoia" fueled by the far smaller staff cuts sought by the company.
Patty Matson, an ABC corporate spokeswoman in New York, suggested Monday that such fears are unwarranted. "Oh, heavens, absolutely not," she said when asked about the rumors of a larger layoff. "This really involves a total of 300 to 350."
Matson, who said there has been a freeze on hiring at ABC since the beginning of this year, said some staff layoffs already have been made as part of the company's cost-cutting program, and "we expect that the rest will be completed by Labor Day."