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BET is getting ready for its next era after the network officially says goodbye to its trailblazing CEO and Chairman Debra Lee. The veteran network executive has planned step down from leadership on Monday, Deadline reported.

Lee has had a long-running, successful run with Black Entertainment Television. She joined the network as its first vice president and general Counsel in 1986. She later was promoted to president and chief operating officer in 1996 before becoming chairman and chief executive officer in 2005. She oversaw the launch of the network’s website,, and developed BET Her, the first network for African-American women. She also acquired television rights to Black Girls Rock! and accomplished other victories during her 32-year-career, which has left an indelible mark on the entertainment industry.

“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,” Lee said in a statement. “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.”

BET fans may wonder what’s next for Lee and how her exit will affect the popular network celebrating and paying tribute to African-Americans. Lee will reportedly stay working in the entertainment industry and continue to play roles on corporate and non-profit boards. She was also expected to continue her work of championing women and people of color by collaborating with Times Up and The Recording Academy Diversity & Inclusion Task Force.

As for how the company will adjust after Lee’s departure, BET President Scott M. Mills may play a large role in that adjustment. The network hired Mills in December to run overall strategy and day-to-day operations, including overseeing brand programming, ad sales and digital teams. Lee, who was said to have stepped back in regards to her responsibilities in running the network around the same time, was approached to become an advisor to Mills, according to Deadline.

BET has also planned to continue work on its new slate of original programs announced last month by its parent company Viacom.


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