[Updated Jan. 26, 2012, 12:57 p.m., to include comment from OWN spokesperson clarifying Oprah Winfrey’s role in the firing.]
A key OWN officer said to be one of Oprah Winfrey’s closest and most trusted executives has been let go by the network as it continues to struggle to gain ratings traction, Deadline.com reports.
Lisa Erspamer, OWN’s executive vice president of production and development, received the news while Winfrey was outside the U.S., the story notes. She was reportedly shocked as she had been in Winfrey’s inner circle, going on cruises and vacations with her, and had worked for Winfrey for 18 years, according to the story.
Initial reports said Erspamer did not hear the news from Winfrey. But Deadline.com later updated its story to include a quote from an OWN spokesperson, who said: “Oprah called Lisa Erspamer from India, where she is shooting an episode of ‘Oprah’s Next Chapter,’ and by mutual agreement they decided that it was time for Lisa to move on.”
Erspamer appears to be taking the fall for the network’s difficult first year on the air, including the weak performance of the Rosie O’Donnell daily talk show, which Erspamer was in charge of trying to improve, the story says. Winfrey had the idea of bringing O’Donnell to the network, however, the piece notes.
"The Rosie Show" started off with 500,000 viewers but has since dwindled to about 200,000.