AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan steps down as M&A rumours whirl

Better Call Saul

AMC Networks’ longstanding president & CEO Josh Sapan is stepping down, prompting further M&A speculation around the US-based broadcaster and streamer.

Sapan has been with AMC for more than 25 years and is being replaced on an interim basis by Matt Blank, who had led HBO-owned Showtime for two decades before stepping down in 2017.

The timing was somewhat unexpected, as Sapan’s contract had a clause allowing him to move from his president & CEO role to become vice chairman from next year. He will now take up his new role from September, with the shift further fuelling expectations on Wall Street that AMC could be subject to a takeover in the coming months.

Josh Sapan

Sapan’s next move is not known but a regulatory filing detailing his new role also revealed that AMC Networks will acquire three movies from the exec in 2023, followed by a further three in 2024. Each will cost the operator $900,000.

Sapan’s super legacy

The veteran executive’s exit from the top of AMC brings an end to a stellar run that saw the cable operator become a major player in the US and around the world.

He oversaw the American Movie Classics channel’s transformation into a globally known brand, with shows such as Mad Men, The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad and spin-off Better Call Saul.

Sapan was also in charge of myriad channels and streamers under the AMC umbrella, including horror streamer Shudder and Acorn TV. Networks under his purview included Sundance TV, BBC America, IFC and WeTV, the latter being launched by the exec in the 1990s.

The exec also led AMC Networks move to become a public company in 2011, having previously been a division of Cablevision known as Rainbow Media.

Mad Men

M&A murmurs

His move has prompted further speculation that AMC Networks, which is owned by the Dolan family, could become part of the ongoing M&A wave across global media.

Analysts also pointed to Blank’s contract only running for a single year as a potential indicator that the company could be exploring a sale.

James Dolan, AMC Networks chairman, praised Sapan’s tenure and his “vision, creativity and management expertise.”

“Over his long career, Josh’s leadership ensured AMC Networks became a force in entertainment, with far-reaching influence throughout the industry, and home to some of the most successful and innovative shows in the history of television,” said Dolan.

Sapan added: “This has been the greatest career I could have ever imagined and I am enormously proud of all that we have accomplished.

“I am deeply grateful to Charles and Jim Dolan for allowing me this spectacular opportunity. There has perhaps been no more exciting time for the company than right now and, as executive vice chairman, I look forward to continuing to work with the outstanding team at AMC Networks, as well as Matt, my great colleague and friend, to focus on how we maximize our unique content to accelerate our streaming goals.”

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