Fox Sports has fired Jamie Horowitz, one of its most senior executives, amid a probe into sexual harassment allegations, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Fox Sports President Eric Shanks announced the removal of Mr Horowitz as president of Fox Sports National Networks in a memo to staff.
“Everyone at FOX Sports, no matter what role we play, or what business, function or show we contribute to should act with respect and adhere to professional conduct at all times.
These values are non-negotiable,” Mr Shanks wrote.
Fox Sports recently retained a law firm in relation to concerns of sexual harassment at the division of 21st Century Fox, the person familiar with the matter said. No claim has been made against the company, but Mr Horowitz was removed as a result of the law firm’s probe, the person said.
Mr Shanks’s email to staff acknowledged that Mr Horowitz’s immediate departure may come as a surprise to many, but didn’t specify why he was exiting. Representatives for Fox Sports declined to elaborate on the staff email, and Mr Shanks didn’t return a call seeking comment.
Mr Horowitz retained well-known entertainment industry lawyer Patricia Glaser, who said the way Fox Sports has treated him is “appalling.”
“At no point in his tenure was there any mention by his superiors or human resources of any misconduct or an inability to adhere to professional conduct,” Ms Glaser said. “Jamie was hired by Fox to do a job that until today he has performed in an exemplary fashion. Any slanderous accusations to the contrary will be vigorously defended.”
Daniel Petrocelli, a lawyer with of O’Melveny & Myers representing Fox Sports, responded to Ms Glaser, saying: “Mr. Horowitz’s termination was fully warranted and his lawyer’s accusations are ill-informed and misguided.”
The harassment probe at Fox Sports comes in the wake of an effort by parent company 21st Century Fox to crack down on inappropriate office behaviour after a year that has seen numerous lawsuits and allegations of sexual harassment and racial discrimination at Fox News. 21st Century Fox is owned by News Corp, publisher of The Australian.
Mr Horowitz joined Fox Sports just over two years ago after a long run at Walt Disney Co’s ESPN and a much shorter stint running NBC’s morning news program “Today”.
At Fox Sports, Mr. Horowitz was tasked with boosting the performance of its cable network Fox Sports 1, which was launched in August 2013 to take on ESPN. The network has struggled to develop signature programming that will keep viewers tuned in when there isn’t a sports event on.
Among the moves Mr Horowitz made was to bring some well-known names over from ESPN including Skip Bayless and Colin Cowherd. In a 2016 interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr Horowitz said he wanted to borrow a page from Fox News and focus on big personalities to discuss and debate the news of the day rather than just be another place to get highlights.
Mr Horowitz was also in charge of digital operations at Fox Sports and has clashed with longtime staffers there over the future direction of the unit, people familiar with the matter said. Last month, Fox Sports let go members of its writing and editing staff there to focus more on video.
In a memo explaining the shift in strategy at the time, Mr Horowitz wrote, “our advertising partners want to be presented alongside premium video across all screens, so we will now focus on delivering high quality sports video content to support their efforts.”
Mr Shanks said in his memo to staff that until a replacement is named for Mr. Horowitz, he will handle oversight of programming, marketing and digital operations.