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Salhany to Resign as UPN Chief Executive


Lucie Salhany will step down as president and chief executive of United Paramount Network when her contract expires in September, ending more than a year of on-and-off speculation fueled by the fledgling network's rocky start and her ongoing disputes with one of its owners.

Salhany said Wednesday night that she would not renew her contract, but would continue to have a role in the network as a consultant to its 50% owner, BHC Communications Inc.

Salhany, 50, will become one of three BHC representatives on the network's six-member operating committee, which also includes three executives from UPN's other 50% partner, Viacom Inc. The two partners launched the network in January 1995 to take advantage of television programming produced by Viacom's Paramount Television Group and the strong station group BHC operates through its Chris-Craft Industries subsidiary.

Salhany, who became the first female network head at Fox Broadcasting in 1993 before joining UPN late the next year, said she would remain in her position until a replacement is named. Neither Viacom's Paramount Television Group nor Chris-Craft returned calls, but Salhany said the search was not yet underway.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday May 15, 1997 Home Edition Business Part D Page 3 Financial Desk 1 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
Ratings--An article in the May 8 edition incorrectly characterized the ratings performance of "Pig Sty," a comedy produced by Paramount Television. Several shows subsequently airing in the same time period have outperformed "Pig Sty" in the ratings.

Salhany's departure comes as all six broadcast networks are setting their fall prime-time schedules. Salhany will present UPN's schedule to advertisers in New York on May 20, although sources said the management uncertainty could be an unsettling factor.

Though Salhany broke the news to the UPN staff at about 6:30 Wednesday night, she joked that her departure became obvious once the local newspaper ran pictures of her house on Lucca Drive on the front page of its classified real estate section. She said she will be commuting come September between Los Angeles and Boston, where her husband, John Polcari, is a restaurateur. "We have only lived together for one year and have lived 19 years apart," said Salhany, whose two young children live with her. "The boys have never lived with John permanently."

Salhany has had a rocky tenure at the network since it began. She locked horns with Kerry McCluggage, chairman of Paramount Television Group. While Salhany is confrontational, McCluggage, who sits on the network's operating committee, is taciturn, leading to a clash in management styles. (Clashes with News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch ended her tenure at Fox.)

Sources say animosity built between McCluggage and Salhany every time she canceled shows Paramount supplied to the network. While one Paramount program, "Pig Sty," was no hit for UPN, the network never performed better in the time period since pulling the comedy, rankling executives at the studio.

Acknowledges Salhany: "Studios and networks tend to have differing opinions. But that doesn't mean that Kerry and I aren't both behind this network 100%."

While Paramount contributed the flagship "Star Trek: Voyager" to launch the network, Paramount exerted no management control until January, when Viacom exercised its option to buy 50% from BHC. (Viacom had deferred its ownership because at the time of the launch it was struggling under debt from the 1994 purchase of the Paramount studios and Blockbuster Entertainment).

Sources had expected McCluggage to move to replace Salhany once Viacom exercised its option, but they said BHC has continued to veto the move, unwavering in its support of the executive it hired away from Fox. McCluggage is rumored to have offered Ted Harbert a position running UPN after Harbert resigned early this year as chairman of ABC Entertainment.

UPN performed poorly in the ratings through most of last year, as it struggled to find shows to complement "Voyager" and chased a male audience with dramas that flopped. Its mediocre performance fueled recurring rumors of a merger with the other upstart network, the WB, which was launched in January 1995 by Time Warner Inc.

UPN's ratings picture began turning around late last year, boosted by the momentum from young urban comedies such as "Moesha."

But sources say by then Salhany was ready to throw in the towel and reunite her family in Boston. She put her $3.4-million house up for sale last May, but said she couldn't announce her plans until she had finalized her new contract with BHC.

Salhany said Wednesday night that she had formed a media advisory consulting firm, JH Media, with offices in Los Angeles and Boston, and that BHC was her first client.

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