Cartoon Network GM Steps Down

Feb 12, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Aqua Teen Hunger Force couldn’t save Jim Samples.

Mr. Samples, general manager of Cartoon Network, resigned under pressure Friday, taking the fall for a promotional fiasco that snarled traffic, enraged officials in Boston and cost parent company Turner Broadcasting $2 million to settle.

A Turner spokeswoman declined to comment on whether Mr. Samples was forced to resign.

“I deeply regret the negative publicity and expense caused to our company as a result of this campaign,” Mr. Samples said in a memo to colleagues on Friday. “As general manager of Cartoon Network, I feel compelled to step down, effective immediately, in recognition of the gravity of the situation that occurred under my watch.”

Turner agreed last Monday to pay several Massachusetts cities and towns $2 million to cover the costs of responding to a suspicious item. The item turned out to be a promotional item for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim whose lights, wires and batteries caused it to be mistaken for a bomb. The light box, which resembled the old Lite Brite kids’ toy, featured a character from Adult Swim’s “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” flipping the bird.

Local officials called out the bomb squad, closed roads, stopped trains and generally snarled traffic and business in Boston last week.

The devices were placed in Boston and nine other cities by the Interference guerrilla marketing agency.

The agency did not inform officials about the promotion, a step that might have prevented the case of mistaken identity.

The emergency response, which played out on news programs nationwide and generated headlines for several days, made conditions ripe for a high-ranking executive at Turner to take the bullet.

In a memo, Mark Lazarus, president of Turner Entertainment Group, said, “Jim’s decision to leave his post is a reflection of his regard for the business he helped build and the people he trusts to move it forward. He has our respect, appreciation and sincere best wishes.”

He credited Mr. Samples for pushing Cartoon online, building Adult Swim from a programming block to a major business and undertaking cause-marketing initiatives “that have made a difference in countless kids’ lives.”

Mr. Lazarus said that until a new head of Cartoon Network is announced, the senior members of the animation team will report directly to him.