UPN SEARCHES FOR NEW TOP SALES EXEC: STEIN MIGHT LEAVE NETWORK WHEN CONTRACT ENDS IN FALL

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UPN is conducting a search for a new top ad sales executive, say two people who have been contacted about the job.

The search is for a possible successor to Perri Stein, senior VP-network sales, who is said to be deciding whether to renew her contract when it expires in the fall. Ms. Stein is the first -- and still only -- woman to head the ad sales operation of a broadcast network.

ON HEELS OF UPFRONT

The questions about Ms. Stein's future come on the heels of an upfront market that saw UPN fall behind rival WB in advance ad sales. UPN President-CEO Dean Valentine is said to be unhappy with the network's upfront performance.

A UPN spokesman denied that, saying, "We're pleased with the upfront and fully expect that Perri Stein will continue here."

Neither Ms. Stein nor Mr. Valentine could be reached for comment.

One of the companies believed to be involved in the search is Brad Marks International, Los Angeles, which specializes in entertainment and media searches. The recruiter declined comment.

One media buyer said it wouldn't be a surprise if Ms. Stein departed UPN.

"Perri's between a rock and a hard place," the buyer said. "She wasn't hired by [Mr. Valentine], and he's been putting his own staff in place. And, unfortunately, the buzz this year was on the WB, not UPN. I think she's done a terrific job under the circumstances, but I don't know if she feels appreciated there now."

While WB pulled in an estimated $250 million to $300 million during the upfront, UPN -- which is adding two nights of programming in the fall and trying to broaden beyond its urban viewer base -- wrote about $150 million to $200 million in business.

`SHE DID MIRACLES'

"Considering it was a buyer's market and no one in the ad community is that excited about UPN's schedule, I think she did miracles," said one buyer. "Valentine might not be happy, but let me tell you, Perri worked incredibly hard, and I think they only did as well as they did because of the chits she called in."

Ms. Stein considered leaving UPN earlier this year when she was approached to head ad sales for Pax Net, the new network being launched Aug. 31, said an executive familiar with those discussions. The executive said UPN would not release Ms. Stein from her contract.

Ms. Stein had been at NBC for 17 years and was considered a rising star when she was recruited by then-UPN President-CEO Lucie Salhany in 1996.

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