FORTUNE -- Anne Sweeney, Walt Disney's (DIS) veteran executive in charge of ABC and the co-chair of the media giant's vast cable-TV assets, is leaving.
Only in Hollywood does a Fortune 500 boss in charge of businesses in 166 countries give up a high-profile gig to become a director of TV shows. That's what Sweeney intends to become, she says, after her Disney contract runs out at the end of this year.
Today's news of Sweeny's exit sent rumors swirling that she was eased out or that she's departing because she hoped to succeed CEO Bob Iger but is not in the running. The rumors are untrue, says a high-ranking source at Disney. When Sweeney's previous contract was several months away from expiring last year, according to Disney, Iger offered her three more years; she asked instead for a one-year extension.
And while the rumor goes around that another powerful woman, Facebook (FB) COO Sheryl Sandberg who is on the Disney board, may be a candidate to succeed Iger, that's highly unlikely. Iger's contract runs until 2016, and the two top candidates to take over from him are internal: Disney CFO Jay Rusulo and Parks and Resorts chairman Tom Staggs.
As for Sweeney, she has been loyal since joining the company in 1996 as president of the Disney Channel, but she's never been solely focused on climbing the ladder. Sweeney, who is 56, began her career wanting to be an actress. In 2007, she started taking painting lessons and became an avid artist.
Today, Sweeney juggles her job as co-chairman of Disney Media Networks with caring for elderly parents, both retired teachers who live near her in Los Angeles, and an autistic son, Christopher. Sweeney and her husband have a grown daughter too. She talked about Christopher at length for the first time in this 2011 interview, part of a Yahoo (YHOO) series called Power Your Future. And yes, that's young Chris in Sweeney's painting above.
"If Twitter is the telephone, we're the conversation."
That comment was a highlight of Fortune Brainstorm Tech's "Future of Television" discussion on Thursday—even though the person who said it wasn't in the room.
No offense to the panelists on stage: Disney (DIS) Media Networks co-chair Anne Sweeney, CBS (CBS) exec Nancy Tellem, and NBC Universal's (CMCSA) Lauren Zalaznick. But the remark--which moderator Jason Hirschhorn said former MTV Networks (VIA) CEO Judy McGrath MOREPatricia Sellers - Jul 22, 2011 11:35 AM ET
FORTUNE -- As the most powerful woman in children's television, Anne Sweeney meets a lot of girls who wish they were Selena Gomez or Miley Cyrus or tomorrow's superstar.
But Sweeney insists that she sees plenty of accomplished women in business who do that very same thing.
"I see a lot of women of every age trying to be something else," says Sweeney, the co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of MOREPatricia Sellers - Jul 19, 2011 2:34 PM ET
I was on stage with Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the producer and director of Miss Representation, on Friday just after the news broke that Christina Norman was out as CEO of Oprah Winfrey's new TV network, OWN.
What an odd coincidence, since Newsom's documentary explores the dearth of women in "clout positions" in the mainstream media. Newsom says that this number is 3%.
Clearly, it is getting worse.
The day before Norman, a former president MOREPatricia Sellers - May 9, 2011 2:54 PM ET
by Patricia Sellers
I'm back from Brainstorm Tech in Aspen. Among the CEOs at Fortune's three-day confab: Ursula Burns of Xerox (XRX), Barry Diller of IAC (IACI), Tim Armstrong of AOL (AOL), Bobby Kotick of Activision Blizzard (ATVI), and Susan Lyne of Gilt Group.
I saw plenty that excited me (Flipboard for the iPad is cool, and I downloaded it right away), but I also heard lots that made my head spin. MOREPatricia Sellers - Jul 26, 2010 3:16 PM ET
Elizabeth Edwards, former Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) CEO Carly Fiorina and other cancer survivors convened for a discussion called "Stand Up to Cancer" at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in mid-September. Hollywood producer Laura Ziskin was also on the panel. She's a co-founder of Stand Up To Cancer, an entertainment-industry-led initiative that funds cancer research, requires scientists to work together, and is helping to accelerate progress toward curing the disease MOREPatricia Sellers - Oct 1, 2009 11:14 AM ET
Who's more powerful--Oprah Winfrey or Yahoo (YHOO) CEO Carol Bartz? Disney (DIS) media boss Anne Sweeney or MTV Networks chief (VIAB) Judy McGrath? Who from Google (GOOG) made the 2009 Fortune Most Powerful Women list?
The new rankings are out. PepsiCo (PEP) CEO Indra Nooyi is No. 1 for the fourth year in a row.
And yes, there is a science to deciding these rankings. Here I talk with CNNMoney MOREPatricia Sellers - Sep 10, 2009 1:15 PM ET
"At the end of a day the performance of a company like Kraft has everything to do with the quality of the people that we have in the key roles and so I spend most of my time worrying about whether that's the case, making sure...we have the right people in the right places, that they have the resources that they need to get the job done."
-- Kraft (KFT) CEO MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - May 5, 2009 6:57 PM ET
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