Hearst Entertainment & Syndication president Scott Sassa has left Hearst after executives at the company became aware of an extortion plot involving a stripper with whom he was sexting, a source confirms to The Hollywood Reporter. The New York Post was first to report on the termination.
At Hearst, Sassa was on the board that oversees A&E and also oversaw Hearst’s investment in Mark Burnett Productions. He shepherded History’s hit miniseries The Bible as their first production together and served as executive producer.
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The executive was let go after the Los Angeles-based stripper forwarded the texts between her and Sassa to Hearst Corp. brass, The Post reported late Wednesday. The two reportedly met in December and had "steamy, illicit exchanges" via text while making plans to hook up, and she also sent racy photos to Sassa.
"She was texting him sexy pictures, and he was responding using words you absolutely would not want your bosses to see," an anonymous source told The Post.
But the stripper apparently tried to blackmail Sassa, asking for money, and emailed the texts to top Hearst execs including CEO Frank Bennack Jr., Hearst Magazines president David Carey and Michael Clinton, president of marketing for the magazines. Sassa was asked to resign Tuesday.
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His profile has already been removed from the company website, and he has updated his Facebook page to read: "former president of Hearst Entertainment."
Sassa, who joined Hearst in December 2008, was an NBC executive from 1997-2004. While president of NBC entertainment from October 1998 to May 1999, he oversaw shows that included The West Wing, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Scrubs.
Sassa also has served as president and CEO of Friendster; president of Turner Entertainment Group; president and chief operating officer at Andrews Group; and CEO of Marvel Entertainment. He also was one of the first people hired at Fox and served as a vp before being fired by co-founder and then-chief Barry Diller for essentially being in over his head.
A Hearst rep declined to comment when reached by The Post.