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Telemundo Moves Operations to Florida

August 25, 1999|KEVIN BAXTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Spanish-language Telemundo television network is transferring the bulk of its programming and marketing divisions from Santa Monica to south Florida in a move designed to consolidate operations and improve the network's flagging performance.

Two of the network's top executives--President and Chief Executive Officer James M. McNamara, and Chief Operating Officer Alan Sokol--have already relocated to Telemundo's offices in the Miami suburb of Hialeah. The future of two other members of the management team are less certain, however. Programming president Nely Galan has taken up only temporary residence in Miami, while Rachel Wells, executive vice president for marketing, is remaining at Telemundo's former headquarters in Santa Monica for the time being. Neither Galan nor Wells could be reached by press time.

Dan Guerrero, the network's vice president for talent and special programming, will not relocate and is leaving the network shortly. Further staff reorganization is likely, sources inside Telemundo indicate.

Approximately 45 people worked at the network's Santa Monica offices, which opened late last December. Most were given the option of either relocating or resigning, although some positions were eliminated in the consolidation. A skeleton staff of about a dozen workers will remain in Santa Monica.

Telemundo had more than 350 employees at its Hialeah offices before the realignment.

"It's important to build a team, and I am very much of the belief that a team is together," said McNamara. "What was going on here was far too much . . . of a bicoastal situation. [Miami] is where the majority of the Spanish talent is. This is where the majority of our infrastructure is."

McNamara was named president and CEO of the Sony-owned network July 7, replacing Peter Tortorici after just a 10-month run. Tortorici, a former president of CBS Entertainment, had favored keeping Telemundo's creative divisions in Southern California to take advantage of the area's deep talent pool of writers and directors.

Under Tortorici, Telemundo was taping two game shows and a sitcom in Southern California, another sitcom in Mexico City, and two dramas in Tijuana while keeping its nonfiction news and talk programs in Hialeah. This season the Southern California-based sitcoms "Los Beltran" and "Solo en America" will be the only Telemundo productions permanently based outside Florida.

Univision, Telemundo's chief Spanish-language rival, has based the majority of its network operations in Miami for more than a decade, although its sales office and Univision Communications Inc., the network's parent corporation, are headquartered in L.A. Univision draws 92% of the prime-time Spanish-language television audience in the U.S., compared to about 8% for Telemundo.

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