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After more than three decades of dedicated work at BET, CEO and Chairman Debra Lee is stepping down from her post at the Viacom-owned cable network.

Vibe is reporting that OG network executive is leaving her post at the number 1 network among Black viewers to focus on her work at the Time’s Up Movement, corporate and nonprofit boards and the Recording Academy’s diversity and inclusion task force, amongst other passion projects.

Unbeknownst to many, Lee was a driving force behind BET’s venture into scripted series that led to the network debuting The Game, Being Mary Jane, and The Real Husbands of Hollywood.

In a statement Viacom CEO Bob Bakish praised Lee for her tireless work and overall direction for the network saying “Debra’s vision and creativity have cemented BET Networks as a premier network for African-Americans and lovers of black culture.” He added “As BET continues to move forward, we will always be grateful to Debra for her leadership and commitment to creating top-notch entertainment that both entertains and empowers. Her passion for the BET brand has resulted in countless wins and has allowed BET to stay competitive in a growing media landscape. While we will all miss Debra tremendously, we respect her decision and understand her desire to leave at the very top of the game with a legacy of significant contributions that spans decades. I have seen firsthand how the network has grown under her direction, and I know that she will bring that same innovative thinking and strategic vision to her future pursuits. Debra has groomed an amazing group of senior executives, and I am confident that BET Networks will continue to flourish under their leadership.”

BET for it’s part has been overhauling many aspects of it’s business having moved from it’s original headquarters of Washington D.C. to New York City and Los Angeles in Spring of 2017 a little after BET president of programming Stephen Hill walked away from the network to “just be” and was subsequently replaced by Michael D. Armstrong as general manager. Scott M. Mills took over as President later in the year.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Mills has made it no secret that his goal is to make BET a place where the industry’s top stars and producers flock to in search of backing for their ideas and projects a la Netflix (Netflix was deemed more valuable than Disney and Comcast for a minute this week by the way so them so pretty high goals).

Either way Lee’s vision will be missed but the longtime exec felt it was her time to move on and had nothing but good things to say of her time at the celebrated network in a personal statement:

In 1986 I joined BET Networks to be its very first in-house counsel. As a young corporate attorney I saw my role as the protector of the BET brand and its employees and today, more than 32 years later, I still see myself as the protector and defender of a brand that I have helped to grow as a top destination for audiences across the globe. I have called BET Networks home for over three decades and this team is part of my extended family.

In addition to the legacy I have built for BET Networks in the media landscape, I am also extremely proud of the legacy of values that I helped to instill at the network during my tenure. My belief that we can do well and do good has been a guiding principle and one that I hope you will continue after my departure. Together, we have built a world-class brand that connects with fans through the power of storytelling and we have attracted and nurtured top talent across the globe.

I feel a tremendous amount of gratitude to our parent company, Viacom, for their continued belief in the power of the BET brand and their unwavering support of my long and fulfilling career here. I would especially like to thank Bob Bakish for supporting me as I start the next chapter in this exciting journey.

I could not be prouder of the enormous amount of talent and creativity at BET Networks today and I will always be BET’s number one fan, rooting for each and every one of you as you continue to break barriers and share your authenticity with the world. I leave with pride, gratitude, and joy for a life-changing professional and personal journey. Continue to do it “for the culture” and much success to you all. You deserve it.

Respect.

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