Ken Hershman, president of HBO Sports since 2012, resigned in a surprise move on Friday, although he will remain in his position through the end of the year.
In his role, Hershman, 52, was one of the most powerful people in the boxing business. He controlled an eight-figure annual budget for HBO’s boxing franchise, the gold standard in the sport for decades, and oversaw its pay-per-view division. He decided which fighters the network — the key player in creating most of boxing’s stars since the 1970s — would back and was a key figure in moving fighters to the lucrative HBO PPV platform.
“I am particularly proud of what I accomplished and believe now is the perfect time to hand over the reins to someone new,” Hershman said in a statement released by the network.
Hershman’s resignation comes almost four years to the day after his hiring was announced in October 2011, a few months after Ross Greenburg, who had been with the network for 33 years and led the division for 10 as president, was forced to resign.
Hershman began the job in January 2012, leaving a similar role at HBO rival Showtime, where he also ran the boxing program to much critical acclaim, even if his viewership numbers and budget could never match those of the much larger HBO.
“I’ve had the distinct privilege of having been involved in many of boxing’s biggest and most thrilling moments, including the Mike Tyson era, creating the Super Six tournament [at Showtime], and staging the biggest pay-per-view event of all-time this past May in Floyd Mayweather versus Manny Pacquiao [in a joint deal with Showtime],” Hershman said. “I have also had the privilege to steward over some of the best sports shows on television, including ’24/7,’ ‘Real Sports’ and ‘Hard Knocks,’ and to work with some of the best talent in television, both behind and in front of the camera.”
HBO said that Hershman will work with HBO programming president Mike Lombardo on the transition to a new president, who has not been selected, although Peter Nelson, an HBO Sports vice president, is viewed as a possible successor.
“Ken’s dedication and commitment to our sports division is deeply appreciated,” Lombardo said. “His approach to rebuilding our boxing franchise was strategic and creative, which led HBO Sports to great success. All of us here are grateful and proud of the success Ken and the HBO Sports team have had over the past four years in delivering unparalleled sports programming to our subscribers. We wish him all the best in his next challenge.”
One of Hershman’s most significant accomplishments was bringing Manny Pacquiao back from a one-fight move to Showtime in 2011 — which he oversaw — that was a big part of why Greenburg was forced to resign. Hershman also made the controversial decision to banish all the fighters involved with manager/adviser Al Haymon from the network because of Haymon’s unwillingness to set up tough matches for his fighters. But Hershman was also in charge when recently retired pound-for-pound king Mayweather, Haymon’s top client, left HBO for a nine-figure deal at Showtime.
Also under Hershman’s watch at HBO, the network signed established fighters such as Mexican star Canelo Alvarez and heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko to network contracts. He also signed middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin and light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev and helped build them from virtual unknowns into cornerstones of their boxing program.
Hershman’s final major act in boxing was announced on Thursday night: the signing of super middleweight champion Andre Ward, one of boxing’s pound-for-pound best, to a multi-fight contract that will culminate with a pay-per-view showdown against Kovalev next fall.
“HBO Sports is well positioned for the future, especially in the boxing arena, with nine of the top 10 pound-for-pound fighters in the sport today, including the world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, Canelo Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin, Sergey Kovalev, Miguel Cotto, Andre Ward, Terence Crawford and many others,” Hershman said. “I cannot wait to watch these great fighters exhibit their skills, but from the vantage point of a passionate boxing fan,” Hershman said.
Credit to ESPN who originally published this article