Fox Kids Network said Thursday that Margaret Loesch, founding president of the 7-year-old programming block on News Corp.'s Fox network, has resigned. Loesch is given much of the credit for turning Fox Kids into one of the biggest successes in children's television.
The move comes at a time of heightened competition for Fox Kids, as ABC and the WB Network challenge Fox's Saturday morning dominance.
Loesch's departure had been expected since she was removed from the president's post and given the vague "strategic" position of vice chairwoman in July. Speculation increased last month when former MTV Networks executive Rich Cronin was named to the new post of president and chief executive of Fox Kids and the Family Channel.
In a statement, Loesch said: "This has been a very difficult decision for me. . . . It's time for me to move on, and I'm eagerly looking forward to new challenges and opportunities." Through a spokesman, she declined to comment further.
There have been rumors for months that Loesch might go to Warner Bros.' WB Network, reuniting with fellow Fox Kids founding executive Jamie Kellner and WB Animation President Jean MacCurdy, with whom she worked at Hanna-Barbera and Marvel Entertainment.
To go to any such post, however, Loesch would probably have to obtain an agreement from Fox. Her contract, which was to run through the end of 2000, is said to have included a non-compete clause. Such clauses are standard at studios.
Fox was recently sued by MTV Networks parent Viacom Inc., which alleged that Cronin breached his contract by going to Fox. Fox's video division recently sued former President Jeffrey Yapp for allegedly breaching his contract by going to retailer Hollywood Video.
Still, Loesch is expected to be in demand. She is highly respected in the industry for bringing such top-rated fare as "Goosebumps" and "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" to Fox Kids. She also spearheaded the spinoff of Fox Kids in 1996 as a co-venture between Fox and Saban Entertainment.
Haim Saban, founder of that company, reportedly was instrumental in Loesch's removal from her job as president. In a statement, Saban expressed "professional admiration" and "deepest personal respect" for Loesch.