As Ben Sherwood prepares to take on his new role at Disney, Fortune examines whether the ABC News president “is the next Jeff Zucker.” Sherwood and Zucker, the president of CNN Worldwide, have followed a similar career path since they were colleagues at the Harvard Crimson:
Sherwood laughs off the comparison, saying that there are very important differences between the two, the most important of which being that he is “6’4” and has 10% more hair than his friend “Jeffie.” (He says Zucker calls him “Benji.”) Whereas Zucker was criticized for never quite fitting into the fabric of the L.A. scene, Sherwood was born and raised there and is moving his family back to what he calls home. He does possess entertainment bona fides, having written three books that were optioned (one, The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud, was made into a movie in 2010), and being married to a woman with impeccable credentials in the space. (Karen Kehela Sherwood is the co-Chair at Imagine Films.)
Sherwood also weighs in about how he’ll spend the next few months:
There’s a lot to learn, and Sherwood admits it. “It’s an enormous creative role and a huge business role,” he says. “Part of my job is to learn as much about the business as I can from Anne in the next few months.” (Sweeney will stay on until early 2015.) Sweeney was admired for her political skills inside a company that has a history of rough politics. Sherwood, whose last tenure at the company started only in 2010, doesn’t possess the same corporate longevity of either Zucker at NBC or Sweeney. That could be an advantage or a problem, depending on whom you ask.