Tim Kelly leaving National Geographic Society

Credited with conceiving of and developing National Geographic Channels, Kelly is departing at the end of the year after close to 30 years with the Society.
September 18, 2012

Tim Kelly is departing from his position as president of the National Geographic Society at the end of the year, realscreen has confirmed.

Appointed president in January 2011 and with the Society for nearly 30 years, Kelly had also served as president and CEO of the Global Media group, president and CEO of Ventures and president of its production arm, National Geographic Television (NGT). He’d first joined the Society as an executive producer in its television department after working with it as a consultant.

He was appointed to the NGT role in 1990, and was the youngest head of the division. Under his watch, NGT won more than 138 Emmy awards and created programming that would build the foundation for the launch of National Geographic’s cable networks.

Kelly is also credited with conceiving of and developing the National Geographic Channel, which first launched in Europe and Australia in 1997, then in the U.S. in 2001, and now seen in 173 countries. In 2012, he developed and structured the launch of Nat Geo Wild, a sister channel devoted to nature and wildlife.

Kelly also oversaw the development of National Geographic Films, which won an Academy Award for March of the Penguins in 2005, and an Oscar nomination for 2010′s Restrepo.

“I leave the Society in what I believe is a moment of great strength, with tremendous potential to make an even bigger difference in the world,” Kelly wrote in a parting memo to the NGS staff. “The mission of the Society – to inspire people to care about the planet – is its most valuable asset, and I know that the mission is paramount in the hearts of management and staff.

“The Geographic has been my obsession and addiction all these years,” he added. “I loved every minute and will cherish every memory, from being part of Bob Ballard’s finding the Titanic, to seeing October’s National Geographic magazine cover story on ‘Blood Ivory.’ I know of no other organization that inspires its staff to feel as proud, fascinated and motivated about being part of something greater than themselves.”

“When I first joined the Society in 1996, it was Tim who showed me the ropes, and sensitized me to the Society’s mission, about which he is so passionate,” wrote John Fahey, CEO and chairman of the Society’s board of trustees, in a separate memo to staff. “I firmly believe that we would not be as well-positioned as we are today to take on the future had I not had Tim by my side these last few years.”

Any plans for a replacement have not yet been announced.

In July, Maryanne Culpepper, president of National Geographic Television, confirmed she would be leaving at the end of the year.

The news of Kelly’s departure was first reported by Deadline.

About The Author
Andrew Jeffrey joined Realscreen in 2021 as its news editor. Here, he helps to oversee assignment, reporting and editing for Realscreen's daily newsletter. Prior to his work covering documentary and non-fiction film and TV, he worked as a reporter and associate producer for CBC Edmonton, and as a reporter for The Star Calgary, where he covered daily news on beats such as local and provincial politics, health care and harm reduction, sports and education. His work has appeared in other Canadian news outlets such as TVO, the Edmonton Journal and Avenue Magazine.