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Time Off for Carole Black

3/06/2005 7:00 PM Eastern

Two weeks from today, Lifetime Television president and CEO Carole Black will be leaving her gig, on her own terms, for a little “time off for good behavior” — her words, not mine.

Actually, that’s the title of a book by Mary Lou Quinlan, which apparently inspired Black when she was in the throes of deciding whether to renew her contract at Lifetime. In the end, she chose to leave.

Black endorsed the book, penning a blurb for it which says: “A must-read for every high-achieving woman who’s working more and enjoying it less. If you’ve ever wanted to step out of the rat race and start living your dreams, this book is the perfect guide.”

Although Black has been at Lifetime — and in the cable industry — for a mere six years, it sure feels longer. In that short span of time, she has shored up the network’s ratings and was a zealot about promoting women’s issues.

Black also quickly cut through the chaff and became a colleague, friend and peer to many of the industry’s top executives.

To that end, Cable Positive is feting her as its honoree, May 10, in New York at its annual fund-raising dinner.

Whether it’s AIDS in the workplace, breast-cancer awareness or getting out the female vote, she led her team to advance women’s issues on so many fronts. That included joining other women’s-rights champions in Juarez, Mexico, to demonstrate against the government’s lack of interest in why poor women were disappearing and turning up dead.

At this writing, no replacement for Black has been named. Lifetime is co-owned by The Walt Disney Co. and Hearst Corp., and that joint board has had ample time to review the situation, given the fact that Black made her wishes known months ago.

In her succession planning, Black had recommended Rick Haskins, Lifetime’s general manager in charge of marketing, and Lynn Picard, the general manager who heads up the network’s ad-sales team.

But Black said that beyond her recommendations, many other executives from outside the network are gunning for the job.

I caught up with Black for an interview (see the highlights at www.multichannel.com/multivision). I asked her: What would it mean if a man wound up getting your job?

Black didn’t have a problem with that, even though Lifetime is unabashedly a network for women. As a woman, she said she would not want to be eliminated for any position because of gender, and that holds true for men, too.

Black said she didn’t have a clue as to who her successor would be and felt that she was leaving the network in good hands, with a strong team. Black — who’s served not only as the head of Lifetime, but as a mentor and role model for so many women in this business — will be sorely missed.

And those dainty Manolo Blahnik shoes just might be filled by someone accustomed to wearing Bruno Maglis.

 

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April