Ken Hershman, the longtime head of Showtime Sports and its boxing franchise, is leaving the network to take over as president of rival HBO Sports, HBO announced Thursday.
Hershman, who will begin in his new role on Jan. 9, will replace Ross Greenburg, who was forced to resign in July after 33 years at the network, including 10 as president of the sports division, in large part because he lost pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao to Showtime for his May fight with Shane Mosley.
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, upset with Greenburg over a variety of issues, took HBO PPV stalwart Pacquiao to Showtime's dormant pay-per-view arm for a one-fight deal before bringing him back to HBO shortly after Greenburg's departure.
"Richard [Plepler, HBO co-president] and I believe that Ken is a perfect fit for HBO Sports," HBO co-president Michael Lombardo said in a statement announcing Hershman's hiring. "He has a deep and thorough understanding of the sport of boxing and that background will be invaluable as he transitions to his role at HBO. Ken has demonstrated a capacity to think outside the box, and the combination of his experience and reputation make him the ideal executive addition to HBO's already stellar sports department."
At Showtime, Hershman oversaw a sports division with the second biggest budget in boxing, but one that is tens of millions of dollars less than HBO's. Still, Hershman was often credited with keeping Showtime competitive with industry leader HBO even though it had far fewer marquee fighters and virtually no pay-per-view business.
Now Hershman will take over the biggest budget in boxing, making him the de facto most powerful person in the sport. He will be the kingmaker, deciding which fights, fighters and promoters to invest the network's roughly $35 million annual boxing budget in.
"Working at Showtime was an amazing experience, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have developed countless friendships and relationships across the organization," Hershman said in a statement. "While I am sure that I will miss them all, I am excited by the opportunity to join the team at HBO and contribute to one of television's most dynamic companies."
Hershman will also oversee a department that produces "24/7," the acclaimed reality series that follows the build up to major HBO PPV fights, regular sports documentaries and newsmagazine show "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel."
Showtime spokesman Chris DeBlasio told ESPN.com that although Hershman has left the network there was no announcement on a successor at this time.
Hershman created Showtime's ground-breaking Super Six World Boxing Classic. However, the six-man, round-robin super middleweight tournament has been troubled by numerous injuries, delays and drop outs, meaning Hershman has left Showtime before he could see it finish on his watch. The final between Andre Ward and Carl Froch, originally scheduled for Oct. 29, was postponed until Dec. 17 because Ward suffered a cut in training.
At Showtime, Hershman was also responsible for making mixed martial arts a significant part of the network's sports menu beginning in 2007, something Greenburg was strongly opposed to at HBO.
Multiple promoters told ESPN.com that Plepler and Lombardo spent part of Thursday making calls to inform them of Hershman's hiring. Since Greenburg's departure, Lombardo had been overseeing HBO Sports in addition to his other programming duties.
"I think Ken Hershman is a very accomplished executive," said Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, who has done regular business with HBO for years but also has worked with Hershman on fights he delivered to Showtime. "I think he's done a fantastic job at Showtime and I have the highest regards for him."
Hershman, a Fordham University law school graduate, began at Showtime in 1992 in the legal department before eventually becoming senior vice president and associate general counsel. He has overseen Showtime Sports since 2003.
Dan Rafael is the senior boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.