ESPN has kicked off the search for a new European boss after Lynne Frank unexpectedly quit the Disney-owned broadcaster to return to America, citing personal reasons.
Ms Frank, the senior vice president and managing director for ESPN in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, spearheaded the group's acquisition of Premier League rights, and the high-profile launch of ESPN's UK channel last September.
It emerged yesterday that she was to leave the cable-TV group after five years. She is understood to have taken the decision to move back to California to be closer to her family, after 17 years in London.
Russell Wolff, the executive vice president and managing director of ESPN International, has kicked off the search to replace Ms Frank, who will stay until September. Mr Wolff said the regions had made "dynamic progress" under her leadership.
Ms Frank was keen to stress there had not been a falling out with the company, describing her experience with the sports network as "a remarkable and rewarding time."
ESPN, an iconic brand in America, launched its UK sports channel in September, about six weeks after securing the Premier League rights following the collapse of Setanta Sports. Previously she had overseen the deal to buy Cricinfo.com and Scrum.com.
An insider at a rival broadcaster said: "From a brand perspective, ESPN were largely unknown in the UK. They had a job to do to establish substantial credibility in the country. As the public face of that, Lynne Frank was very important for that time." ESPN is to lose one of its Premier League packages to Sky next season – bringing the total matches shown to 23 – but has looked to offset that by securing the rights to show FA Cup football. Earlier this month, the group won the exclusive rights to show Premier League highlights on mobile phones, beating Sky, in a deal worth "single-digit millions".
Ms Frank – a Manchester United fan – was born in Frankfurt and raised in California. After graduating from the University of California she joined Turner Europe, where she spent 12 years.