Discovery Chairman, Founder Hendricks to Retire

Discovery Communications Inc. said its chairman and founder, John S. Hendricks, plans to retire in May after 32 years with the cable-television company.

Hendricks, 61, will both retire as an executive and resign from the board on May 16 after the company’s annual meeting, according to a regulatory filing yesterday. He had stepped down as chief executive officer in 2004.

Hendricks, who published his memoir “A Curious Discovery: An Entrepreneur’s Story” last year, created the Discovery Channel for U.S. audiences in 1985. Since then, the Silver Spring, Maryland-based company has expanded to more than 220 countries and territories and added cable networks such as TLC, Animal Planet and Investigation Discovery to its lineup. The company also has a joint venture with Oprah Winfrey for the OWN channel.

“For over three decades now, I have somewhat envied the legions of documentarians that we have employed who have traveled the world to bring great stories and experiences to our viewers,” Hendricks wrote in a letter to employees yesterday. “It is now finally time for me to go exploring! I plan to spend the next few years traveling the planet and discovering the questions and mysteries that intrigue us all.”

Last month, billionaire John Malone, 73, set his own succession plans in motion by giving Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav the right to buy 5.9 billion of his Class B shares of company should he decide to sell. Malone holds almost 95 percent of the Class B shares, with extra voting rights, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Hendricks owns less than 1 percent of the Class A shares, the data show.

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