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Valentine Resigns as Head of UPN

Media: CBS CEO will oversee the network's operations until a new organizational structure is announced.

January 12, 2002|CORIE BROWN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

UPN television President Dean Valentine is leaving the company effective immediately, UPN parent Viacom Inc. announced Friday.

The move at the top of the fifth-largest broadcast network--which is experiencing a banner year--had been widely anticipated since early September when Valentine filed suit against Viacom. Valentine claimed the company had failed to pay him up to $22 million in bonuses he was promised when he left his job as head of television at Walt Disney Co. to run the fledgling network in 1997.

In December, Viacom announced it would fold the management of UPN under sister network CBS' chief executive, Leslie Moonves, in what it called a cost-cutting move. But the consolidation was more significant as a power play between Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone, who wanted to keep UPN separate from CBS, and the company's chief operating officer, Mel Karmazin, eager to put all of Viacom's network operations under one management team. Paramount Television Group Chairman Kerry McCluggage, who had been responsible for UPN, resigned when the announcement was made.

"I came here to be CEO of a network," Valentine said. "Once it is merged with CBS, UPN no longer needs a CEO. It's not the job I was hired to do."

Viacom did not name a successor to Valentine, 47, saying Moonves will oversee the operations of UPN until a new organizational structure for the network is announced. Speaking to the Television Critics Assn. in Pasadena on Thursday, Moonves said he has no immediate strategies for making the 6-year-old network profitable.

But the merger of the two network operations was not the reason for Valentine's split from the network. Once he filed suit against Viacom, Valentine's tenure was effectively over, according to UPN and Viacom executives. The pending lawsuit is the subject of on-going settlement talks.

This season, UPN has increased its overall audience to 4.6 million viewers, up 12%, largely because of the new Star Trek series, "Enterprise," and the addition of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

"I am really proud UPN is being left in tremendously strong financial and creative shape," said Valentine, who declined to comment on the specific circumstances of his departure.

UPN premiered Jan. 16, 1995, with programming only two nights a week. It now airs shows five nights a week.

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