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Uva Out as President, CEO of Univision (Updated)

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Media observers have characterized Joe Uva’s decision to leave Univision as a “surprise,” but perhaps the greatest aftershocks were reserved for company brass.

According to one source, Uva chose against renewing his contract with Univision, effectively bringing the curtain down on his tenure as president and CEO of the Spanish-language network. With his deal set to expire Saturday, April 2, the 55-year-old Uva will remain on board for another three weeks.

Uva’s decision seems to have caught Univision directors off guard; one insider suggested that as late as last week, the board believed it might sign its chief executive to an extension. Certainly, Uva had shown no public sign of wanting out; just two weeks ago, he crowed to investors about the enormous opportunities afforded by the Hispanic population boom.

During the company’s Q4 earnings call, Uva also reiterated his goal to make Univision the top-rated network within the next five years.

Characterizing his four-year tenure as “extremely exciting and rewarding,” Uva said the time was right for him to “capitalize on other opportunities.” In keeping with precedent, his language was empty of any signifiers. That said, Uva’s resume should open doors at broadcast and cable network sales organizations, as well as New York’s largest media agencies.

Prior to joining Univision in April 2007, Uva served a five-year stint as president and CEO of OMD Worldwide. Before that, he spent 17 years at Turner Broadcasting System, rising to the rank of president of sales and marketing for Turner Entertainment Group.

The Uva announcement comes just two months after Univision tapped former NBC Universal and AOL executive Randy Falco as its new evp and chief operating officer. While Falco’s name was conspicuously absent in the release, a source suggested the former NBC Universal Television Group president is the most likely successor to Uva.

Falco, who joined Univision in mid-January, oversees all revenue-producing functions, including ad sales, distribution and affiliate relations, as well as day-to-day operations at the company’s TV and radio station units. He has been reporting directly to Uva.

A search for a new CEO begins today. In order to effect a more frictionless transition, executive chairman Haim Saban will serve as interim chief executive until a replacement has been identified.

Saban tipped his hat to Uva “for his tremendous contributions over the past four years,” adding that the company is stronger today thanks to the departing chief’s efforts. “Univision’s business is strong, and the entire management team remains focused on delivering value to its customers and stakeholders," he said. "We wish Joe the best in his future endeavors.”