Sesame Workshop hires three and promotes one in executive restructuring

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Sesame Workshop announced a major reorganization Thursday, with three new hires and a promotion in its executive ranks.



Although there will be no rank-and-file layoffs, several executive positions will be eliminated, according to a Workshop spokesperson who provided no further details.

The Workshop produces the longtime public TV children’s show Sesame Street.

The personnel moves come six months into CEO Jeffrey Dunn’s tenure. “To adapt to the changed industry financial models and expanded delivery systems,” Dunn said in the statement, “we need to change as an organization. And that is the focus of this reorganization.” He declined an interview request through a Workshop spokesperson.

New hires are:

  • Steve Youngwood as chief operating officer. He will run the Media and Education unit, which includes global commercial endeavors. Previously, Youngwood was e.v.p. and g.m. of digital media and entertainment products at Nickelodeon. Since departing Nickelodeon early in 2014, Youngwood has been an adviser for Hanson Robotics in Hong Kong, which develops and manufacturers humanlike robots and software; and a fellow at L2 Inc., a digital consultant for businesses. Youngwood also serves on the board of directors of Leapfrog Enterprises, which develops educational games and toys.
  • Brown Johnson as e.v.p. and creative director, responsible for domestic TV content development and production and creative services. Johnson created Dora the Explorer, Blue’s Clues and other titles in Nickelodeon’s preschool block as president of animation and preschool entertainment. She left the kids’ network in 2012 and has worked as a creative consultant with the Workshop since last November. Johnson is a board member for Mobile Film Classroom, which teaches digital media production to at-risk youth in Los Angeles.
  • Joseph Salvo as e.v.p. and general counsel. Salvo is current general counsel at HiT Entertainment, a division of Mattel, and is responsible for legal work on content creation, distribution, consumer products licensing, publishing and live events. Previously, Salvo held executive positions in the legal departments at Sony Music and Arista Records. He also teaches entertainment law as an adjunct professor at St. John’s University School of Law.

Also, Sherrie Westin remains an e.v.p. but transitions from chief marketing officer to oversee global impact and philanthropy. Westin will head up the Social Impact and Philanthropy unit, covering community engagement efforts and global philanthropic development.

Dunn said in the announcement that the new executive organizational chart “removes the current functional silos and creates a leadership structure organized around business units and geography.” The changes mean that Youngwood and Westin will oversee country managers across geographic regions.

The reorganization also stresses revenue growth, the Workshop spokesperson said. Revenue is down in all of the Workshop’s three major areas, according to an audited financial statement for fiscal year 2014. From fiscal 2013 through the end of fiscal 2014, program support fell from $35 million to $31 million, distribution fees and royalties from $39 million to $32 million and licensing from $47 million to $41 million.

Meanwhile, operating losses doubled, from $5.7 million in 2013 to $11 million in 2014.

Assets, at $294 million, are up over last year, bolstered in large part by investment growth of $16 million.

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