Paley Center CEO Pat Mitchell to step down next year

Paley Center CEO Pat Mitchell will step down next year, sources say.
(AFP/Getty Images/Mike Coppola)

Pat Mitchell, chief executive of the Paley Center for Media -- which serves a dual role as think tank for the entertainment industry and fan club for TV shows -- will step down in 2014 after eight years in the post, people familiar with the matter said.

The Paley Center, whose board of trustees is made up of prominent executives including Walt Disney Co. Chairman Bob Iger, CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves, Discovery CEO David Zaslav and National Basketball Assn. Commissioner David Stern, has retained an executive search firm to find a successor for Mitchell.

Neither Mitchell nor a Paley Center spokeswoman returned requests for comment. Two executives with close ties to the Paley Center confirmed Mitchell’s plans but declined to speak publicly because they had not been authorized to do so.

Mitchell, 70, will be involved in the search for her replacement, these people said. She is only the third CEO in the Paley Center’s 38-year history.


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With its huge archive of old television and radio programs, the Paley Center has been a vital resource for academics and authors. TV producers have even been known to use the collection to make sure their shows are historically accurate.

In recent years as older television shows became available on DVD and later on digital platforms such as Netflix, the appeal of the Paley Center to the general public started to wane.

During her tenure, Mitchell has been tasked with changing the mission of the Paley Center to keep the institution relevant before technology obliterated it. Founded in 1975 as the Museum of Broadcasting (and then changed to the Museum of Television & Radio) by legendary CBS chief Bill Paley, the original mandate was to serve as something of a library for the industry and the general public.


When Mitchell, a former president of PBS and senior executive at Turner Broadcasting, joined the museum in 2006, one of the first actions she took was to change the name again to better reflect the new direction and clear up misconceptions that attendees might get to see Fonzie’s jacket or the car from “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

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While the name Paley held little meaning to the public (and indeed much of the industry) anymore, Mitchell said in 2007 that “William Paley stood for innovation and quality and so will the center that carries his name.” Paley’s son William is still a trustee of the Paley Center, and the late CBS chairman’s trust is vital to the nonprofit organization.

Over the last several years, the Paley Center has looked to develop new revenue streams by developing more programs aimed at industry executives. Prior to Mitchell’s arrival, the Paley Center created the Media Council, a think tank for industry executives that holds conferences and seminars.


Mitchell increased the number of Media Council events and also created other forums for the industry, including its “She Made It” initiative, which honors the achievement of women in media.

The Paley Festival, a celebration of popular television shows held in Beverly Hills every spring, has also had a renaissance of sorts with both the public and the industry. Paley recently launched a New York version of the festival that also was a hit with sponsors and attendees.

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Mitchell may not be the only significant change at Paley. Board of Trustees Chairman Frank Bennack is 80 and recently stepped down as chief executive of Hearst Corp. It is expected that he will also step back from the Paley Center in the near future.


There has been a fair amount of belt-tightening at the Paley Center in the last decade, including several rounds of layoffs. Both the New York headquarters and the Beverly Hills branch are now open to the public just four days a week. Its annual galas in New York and Los Angeles have shrunk in both stature and the amount of revenue they generate for the organization. The Beverly Hills locale is also very expensive.

According to the company’s most recent 990 form, the Paley Center in 2011 had revenues of $12.7 million and expenses of $18.3 million. Its assets are valued at $110.6 million. Mitchell’s compensation package for 2011 was approximately $700,000.

(Editor’s note: Times staff writer Joe Flint worked at the Paley Center from 2006 to 2009 as its director of industry programs.)



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