AMC Networks said on Tuesday that CEO Christina Spade “has stepped down from her role” without giving details about the reason.
The news came as a surprise as Spade had only taken over the role as of Sept. 9. A successor wasn’t immediately named.
“The AMC Networks board of directors is currently finalizing who it will name as a replacement, with an announcement to follow,” the company, which operates such cable networks as AMC, IFC and Sundance TV, as well as such streaming services as AMC+, Acorn TV and horror-focused Shudder, said on Tuesday.
AMC Networks chairman James Dolan said: “We thank Christina for her contributions to the company in her CEO role and her earlier CFO role, and we wish her well in her future endeavors.”
A representative said the company had no further comment.
A regulatory filing later on Tuesday morning added some color. “On November 28, 2022, Christina Spade stepped down from her role as chief executive officer of AMC Networks,” it said. “As a result, Ms. Spade will receive the severance benefits payable in accordance with the terms of her employment agreement, dated August 4, 2022, on a termination without ’cause’ or resignation for ‘good reason’ basis. The board of directors of the company is in the process of determining who it will name as the successor CEO of the company.”
Wells Fargo analyst Steven Cahall wrote in a first reaction: “The announcement is a surprise to us.”
Media and entertainment industry veteran Spade previously served as CFO of AMC Networks since 2021 and later added the chief operating officer title. Before that, she held senior roles at ViacomCBS (now known as Paramount Global), CBS Corp. and Showtime.
In August, AMC Networks had unveiled her as the successor for interim CEO Matt Blank, a former Showtime Networks CEO, who replaced long-time boss Josh Sapan who had announced his change to the executive vice chairman role after a 26-year run. Spade’s employment agreement was set to run through the end of 2025.
“I’m a fan of this company in every respect, its content, brands, and most importantly, its people and dynamic and inclusive culture,” Spade had said in August.
Patrick O’Connell, previously a senior executive at CBS Corp. and Goldman Sachs, at the time was named the company’s executive vp and CFO, reporting to Spade. “Patrick is a highly accomplished executive focused on delivering strong financial performance with a deep understanding of today’s media landscape opportunities,” Spade said at the time. “I know he’ll be instrumental in driving the business forward with his strong finance track record, entrepreneurial drive and collaborative approach.”
When Sapan announced his exit from the CEO role, some Wall Street observers wondered if the change may mean that a sale could be in the firm’s future. AMC Networks has often been seen as a takeover target for entertainment or technology giants, because of its lack of scale, while management has argued that the company was doing well with focusing on niche streaming services, often emphasizing the benefits of going it alone as a more focused company.
Spade will receive a severance payment of more than $10 million, in addition to benefits associated with restricted stock and other awards, her employment agreement details.
As of 9:40 am ET, AMC Networks shares were down 6 percent at $19.35.