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Eyeing European growth, Discovery hires CFO from German broadcaster

Discovery Communications Headquarters in Silver Spring. (The Daily Record /Maximilian Franz)

Discovery Communications Headquarters in Silver Spring. (The Daily Record /Maximilian Franz)

Discovery Communications Inc., the U.S. cable-TV company that’s on a growth spurt in Europe, named Gunnar Wiedenfels chief financial officer, plucking an executive from Germany’s ProSiebenSat.1 Media SE.

Wiedenfels, 39, will join around April 1, Silver Spring, Maryland-based Discovery said Tuesday in a statement. In 18 months as CFO at ProSiebenSat.1, Wiedenfels oversaw a number of digital acquisitions and the German broadcaster joined the DAX index of Germany’s 30 biggest companies. He will succeed Andrew Warren, who said previously he planned to leave Discovery, which counts billionaire John Malone and the Newhouse family as investors.

Discovery, owner of the Animal Planet and TLC networks, is bringing in Wiedenfels as it turns to Europe for expansion. With ratings down at some U.S. networks, Europe and Latin America are still adding pay-TV subscribers. The media company last year took full control of Eurosport, a pan-European sports media group, and paid $1.4 billion for exclusive European broadcast rights to the Olympics from 2018 to 2024. With that deal, Discovery became the first media company to hold all the European rights for the games.

“Gunnar’s international expertise aligns perfectly with our future growth profile, and he brings to Discovery an exceptional reputation in the capital markets, strong industry expertise and a strategic focus to help unlock the value of our investments,” Discovery Chief Executive Officer David Zaslav said. Wiedenfels will work out of Discovery’s New York office, the company said.

A charismatic executive known for being meticulous, Wiedenfels joined ProSiebenSat.1 from McKinsey & Co. in 2009 and has since held several management positions, including deputy CFO and deputy group controller. He will remain in his current position through March, ProSiebenSat.1 said in a separate statement.

The broadcaster named its long-term investor relations executive Ralf Peter Gierig as deputy CFO, effective immediately, and said it’s looking for a successor to Wiedenfels.