The Former Faces of Viacom: Company's Ad Chief Is Only the Latest to Leave

Jeff Lucas Exits TV Conglomerate for a Job at Snapchat

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Jeff Lucas.
Jeff Lucas. Credit: Viacom

The long-rumored and finally-confirmed exit of Viacom ad sales chief Jeff Lucas for Snapchat added to the company's already lengthy list of leadership departures.

In just 16 months, Viacom has now lost at least 10 top executives with a combined tenure of 167 years. Out of the 10, eight had held positions at the company for a decade or more. (See them all below.)

These leaders have been heading for the door amid an extended struggle with Viacom's TV ratings. The company has suffered sharper declines than most because its networks such as Nickelodeon and MTV attract precisely the younger audiences most prone to watching video on non-traditional platforms, where viewership is not completely measured.

More recently Viacom has become embroiled in a very public legal battle for the $40 billion media behemoth. CEO Philippe Dauman is challenging his dismissal from the board of National Amusements, the company through which Sumner Redstone controls Viacom, claiming that Mr. Redstone is mentally incompetent and being manipulated by his daughter Shari.

The executive exits at other parts of the company don't seem to have hurt ad sales, with negotiations over commercial time for next season wrapping up earlier in June. But they have now hit Viacom's ad unit with the departure of Mr. Lucas.

Unlike some of other moves, this one should be relatively seamless for Viacom. It named Sean Moran, a 21-year company veteran who is well-known in the ad business, to take over the top ad-sales spot.

Other recent departures include MTV reality chief Lauren Dolgen; Russell Hicks, president of content development and production at Nickelodeon; and Michele Ganeless, president of Comedy Central.

Not every one of these departures is a matter of an executive rushing to escape. For some, at least, it's just as likely that after decades at the helm, a change was necessary.

Viacom also went through a significant reorganization last year with the consolidation of its three network groups into two -- entertainment group and kids & family group -- which has contributed to the change in leadership.

Plenty of Viacom's competitors have experienced similar turmoil in recent years. NBC Universal, for example, has reorganized its cable unit several times, including a shakeup at the top.

Not many have seen the drama that Viacom is currently enduring, however. The biggest question mark is the fate of Mr. Dauman. Although he remains CEO while he fights his board dismissal, the prevailing sentiment is that his own departure is more a matter of when than if.

As for Viacom's ratings woes, it's unclear who, if anyone, has the answer. Fresh faces could be good for the company as it searches for a turnaround. But the exodus of veterans is also jarring, and seems unlikely to let up soon.

Viacom's Executive Exodus

Jeff Lucas (l), left his post as ad sales chief at Viacom to become VP-sales at Snapchat after more than a year in the post and 10 years with Viacom. He was succeeded by Sean Moran, an executive with even longer tenure at the company: 21 years.
Lauren Dolgen (l), head of reality programming, MTV, exited in June 2016, after 19 years at the company. Her position will not be replaced.
Russell Hicks (l), an 18-year veteran, departed from Nickelodeon, where he served as president of content development and production, in June 2016. He has not been replaced.
Michele Ganeless (l) stepped down as president of Comedy Central in May 2016. She had been with the company for 25 years. She was replaced by Kent Alterman.
Susan Levison (l), exec VP — original programming and production, VH1, left in November 2015 after a 2-year stint. She has not been replaced.
Stephen Friedman (l), president, MTV, stepped down in September 2015 after 18 years with the company. He was replaced by Sean Atkins.
After just 3 years at MTV, Susanne Daniels (l) exited as president of programming in July 2015. She has been replaced by Michael Klein.
Tom Calderone (l), president, VH1, left in July 2015 after 17 years with the company. He was replaced by Chris McCarthy.
Van Toffler (l), stepped down from his role as president of Viacom Media Networks Music & Logo Group in February 2015. His departure marked a reorganization of the company, with Doug Herzog taking over as head of the entertainment group.
Larry Jones (l), president, TV Land, departed in February 2015 after 27 years with the company. While his position has not been replaced, TV Land has been led by another long-time executive Keith Cox, who serves as exec VP — original programming and development.
executive departures
Photos courtesy of Viacom, Sean Moran, MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, VH1, Barbara Nitke/TV Land and TV Land. Graphic by Chen Wu.

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