Discovery Channel president and general manager Clark Bunting is leaving Discovery in March of next year, after what will be 27 years with the company, according to an internal company memo.
Writing to Discovery staff today, Bunting said that he would step down next March, in order to have time “to help transition my successor.”
He said he would be looking to direct his energies towards “the next chapter” of his life, “possibly in education or the non-profit sector.”
Reflecting on his time with the broadcaster, Bunting said that when he joined Discovery in 1985, he was its 19th employee. “I had the great fortune to follow along with John Hendricks’ vision of what the company needed to be and work to realize that dream,” he said.
“With the help of the Discovery Channel team, ratings, revenue and brand are stronger than they have been in years. I try to live by the principle of leaving things better than the way you found them. I feel that is what we are doing today.”
Bunting’s departure will create a vacancy for one of the biggest jobs in factual broadcasting. Among his many roles with the company, he in 1996 became the first general manager of Animal Planet, launching Discovery’s third channel.
Over the next 10 years he went on to oversee almost every one of Discovery’s U.S. channels, including Science, Investigation Discovery, Military Channel, Discovery Health, FitTV, HD Theater, Discovery Home, Travel Channel and Discovery Studios.
In a joint statement sent to Discovery Communications staff, president and CEO David Zaslav and company founder and chairman John Hendricks paid tribute to Bunting, joking that “Clark will be ‘hanging up his shark fin’ in March.”
“It is impossible to summarize everything Clark has contributed to Discovery over the years,” the pair wrote. “There never has been a Discovery Communications without Clark Bunting. He came to the company in 1985 when it was still known as Cable Educational Network.
“Since that time, he has witnessed every stage of our growth from a single network to a global leader, touched nearly every part of the company, and been instrumental in so many of our milestone moments.”
They added that he was “an incredible leader, creative mind, colleague, partner and friend – Clark is always ready to step up, contribute, counsel and help in any and every way needed.”