This is a bizarre story that has had people scratching their heads over the past two days. FremantleMedia North America’s communications and marketing head Manfred Westphal has abruptly left the reality TV indie giant behind such shows as American Idol, America’s Got Talent and the upcoming X Factor. Westphal served as SVP of marketing and communications, reporting to CEO Cecile Frot-Coutaz. Word is Westphal quietly cleared his office over the weekend, leaving only a resignation letter for Frot-Coutaz on his desk, which his assistant found after he didn’t show up for work Monday. Adding to the mystery, his known personal phones have been disconnected, while his work phone number is automatically transferred to FremantleMedia North America’s main switchboard. The company’s head of human resources Ellen Goldsmith wouldn’t comment on the circumstances surrounding Westphal’s departure but confirmed that he “has resigned to make a change and pursue a new chapter in his life.” “We wish him the best,” she said, adding that the company is “in the process of recruiting” a replacement. Because of the sudden nature of Westphal’s exit, FremantleMedia is also looking for “interim solution” until a permanent replacement is found. That will probably be necessary as Westphal’s departure leaves FremantleMedia with no U.S.-based PR executive just a couple of weeks before the launch of the company’s big new Simon Cowell series X Factor, though the lion’s share of marketing and publicity for that is handled by Fox. Westphal had been at FremantleMedia North America since 2007 and was promoted to SVP in 2009. Before that, he spent five years at Paramount Domestic TV.
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