ABC, Disney President Anne Sweeney to Step Down: Fighting with Disney CEO?

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Anne Sweeney
isney's TV chief Anne Sweeney poses for Reuters in her Burbank, California office November 15, 2010./REUTERS REUTERS

Ranked as the Most Powerful Woman in TInselton by The Hollywood Reporter and President of the Disney/ABC Television Group, Anne Sweeney recently announced she is set to leave her position on January 15 and go back to her roots as a director.

Sweeney, 56 currently manages powerful television networks ABC, ABC Family and Disney Channel, as well as Disney's radio, publishing, television stations and more other assets. No wonder she was hailed as the most powerful woman in the media for five consecutive years.

Sweeney and Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger, shared this move in an with The Hollywood Reporter's editor-in-chief.

While Sweeney simply claimed she desires to move on to the next chapter in her career as the main reason for her stepping down as the President of ABC and Disney, some are speculating her move is political.

The recent underperformance of ABC, the rising prominence are both said to be significant factors behind this move. However, the most influencial factor is the fact that Anne Sweeney was left out of the race towards becoming the next Disney CEO as iger steps down next year.

"Disney is at an inflection point where the ABC brand/assets are taking a decisive backseat to the ESPN and Disney brands - in that light the management transition while not expected is not overly surprising," said BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield.

Even though Sweeney is highly respected as the most powerful woman in Hollywood, the same respect is not extended to her by Disney itself. Back in 2009, Iger made the decision to swap the positions held by then Chief Financial Officer, Tom Staggs and then Chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts, Jay Rasulo so that both can become likely candidates for the CEO position or Iger's successor. Anne Sweeney was not given the same chance and even though she was considered a dark horse in this race, her chances of becoming one were not promising.

Asked whether the bid for the CEO position could have been the real reason behind this stepping down, Sweeney denied this vehemently. "That wasn't a job I wanted to pursue," said Sweeney. "I know what drives me. I have seen firsthand what [the job] is and he [Iger] has done it in the most spectacular way. What drives me now is getting closer to or being immersed in the creative process."

No matter her reasons, it is going to be exciting to see the projects directed by her in the future. 

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