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Powerful MTV Networks leader Judy McGrath steps down

May 5, 2011 |  9:03 am

Judy-mcgrath One of television's most influential figures, MTV Networks Chairman and Chief Executive Judy McGrath is leaving the network that she helped shape into a cultural force.

McGrath, 58, has been chairman of the MTV Networks since 2004. In that role, she and her team programmed some of the industry’s most influential and popular networks, including MTV, MTV2, VH1, Logo, Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, Comedy Central, TV Land and Spike.

She began her career as a copywriter at MTV in 1981 and rose through the ranks to take on pivotal roles helping to shape the network into a phenomenon that has defined youth culture for decades. But after 30 years in the trenches, and helping to nudge MTV back from a prolonged ratings slump, she decided that it was a good time to leave to do something new.

"Creatively, financially, all the brands and businesses are in wonderful shape today. I leave with pride, joy and gratitude for the ride of a lifetime. I especially thank my friends and colleagues on the senior team ... " McGrath said in a statement, released Thursday. "They have my respect and affection, always."

Many in the industry had speculated that McGrath might be forced out after Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone fired her longtime mentor and MTV architect, Tom Freston, from his job as chief executive of the company in September 2006. But she held on, striking a new working relationship with Freston's successor, Philippe Dauman.

"The words 'creativity,' 'passion' and 'integrity' are thrown around a lot in business. But when used to describe our friend and colleague Judy McGrath, these words take on special relevance and meaning," Dauman, Viacom's CEO, said in an email to employees Thursday morning.

"After a brief flirtation with the magazine industry, she arrived at MTV moments after its birth in 1981 as a copywriter. Soon, her creative work was helping to define MTV’s maverick attitude and unique audience connection with on-air promos and contests like 'Devo Goes Hawaiian' and 'One Night Stand with Journey.' From the beginning, she energetically channeled her life-long passion for music into everything she did. Judy thrived and so did MTV. She subsequently moved up the ranks and became editorial director, executive vice president and creative director, and then, president of MTV. Under her direction as president, MTV grew from a cable channel about music into the global brand it is today by constantly reinventing and reflecting the always-changing youth culture," Dauman said.

McGrath's executives -- Doug Herzog, president of the MTV Networks Entertainment Group; Van Toffler, president of MTV Network Music & Logo Group; and Cyma Zarghami, president of Nickelodeon and the MTV Network Kids & Family Group -- now will report to Dauman.

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Photo: Judy McGrath Credit: Reuters

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