ABC News senior managers out amid Disney layoffs

395901 04: The ABC logo is displayed outside ABC News headquarters after an anthrax scare October 15, 2001 in New York City. The 7-month-old son of an ABC News employee in New York has contracted the disease after visiting the studio. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Several high-level cuts sent shock waves through ABC News. (Mario Tama / Getty Images)
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ABC News is undergoing a major executive shake-up as part of company-wide layoffs at Walt Disney Co.

Several top managers with decades of experience were among the people inside ABC News who were cut Thursday, according to people who were familiar with the details but not authorized to discuss them publicly. The high-level cuts sent shock waves through the division.

"While these actions are never easy, they are a necessary step to ensure we're on solid footing for the years ahead as we chart a sustainable, growth-oriented path forward for the entire organization," ABC News President Kim Godwin said in a staff memo obtained by The Times.

The cuts are part of Disney's plan to eliminate 7,000 jobs as part of a wider effort to rejuvenate the Burbank entertainment giant's finances and reach profitability at its streaming business. High-level executives such as Marvel Entertainment Chairman Ike Pearlmutter, who was laid off Wednesday, have been affected by the moves that began this week.

A total of 50 ABC News staffers are expected to be let go in the round of layoffs.

Personnel cutbacks have become almost a daily occurrence in the media and tech industries as companies try to curb expenses amid a difficult economic environment.

Godwin is using Disney's cost-reduction edict to reshape the management structure at ABC News, leading to the departure of a number of longtimers.

Wendy Fisher, a senior vice president who oversaw newsgathering and had been with the network since 1989, was among those ousted. Her duties will be taken over by Katie den Daas, currently London bureau chief for the network, according to Godwin's memo.

Chris Vlasto, longtime head of the investigative unit, is also out. Vlasto is a respected veteran who led the team that broke the story of then-President Clinton's relationship with onetime White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Vlasto's area will be taken over by Stacia Deshishku, executive vice president and senior vice president of news.

Godwin also axed Galen Gordon, a senior vice president in charge of talent strategy and development. Gordon arrived at the network in October 2020, picking up duties from Barbara Fedida, who left ABC after an investigation into racially insensitive remarks she made on the job.

Gordon's tasks will be handled by Derek Medina, Godwin's top deputy at ABC News.

Other notable cuts include Heather Riley, who long served as the right-hand person for "Good Morning America" anchor George Stephanopoulos. The Washington-based executive was recently involved in negotiations with the Republican National Committee regarding 2024 presidential primary debates and nominating-convention coverage.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.