Lee began her career with the company as its first vice president and general counsel in 1986. She was elevated to president and COO in 1996 and became chairman and CEO in 2005. In December, BET announced that Lee would remain as chairman and CEO but would step away from her day-to-day duties, with Scott M. Mills rejoining BET as president.
“In 1986 I joined BET Networks to be its very first in-house counsel. As a young corporate attorney I saw my role as the protector of the BET brand and its employees and today, more than 32 years later, I still see myself as the protector and defender of a brand that I have helped to grow as a top destination for audiences across the globe,” Lee said in a statement. “I have called BET Networks home for over three decades and this team is part of my extended family. In addition to the legacy I have built for BET Networks in the media landscape, I am also extremely proud of the legacy of values that I helped to instal at the network during my tenure. My belief that we can do well and do good has been a guiding principle and one that I hope you will continue after my departure. Together, we have built a world-class brand that connects with fans through the power of storytelling and we have attracted and nurtured top talent across the globe.”
Following her departure from the company, Lee plans to stay involved in the media industry and continue her role on corporate and non-profit boards. She also plans to continue her work with Times Up and The Recording Academy Diversity & Inclusion Task Force, in addition to other groups. Lee’s annual gathering of prominent African American women, Leading Women Defined, will also continue under her leadership.
This is the latest in a string of executive shakeups at BET. In March 2017, 18-year BET veteran Stephen Hill and his top lieutenant, Zola Mashariki, also stepped down. After Bob Bakish took the reins as Viacom CEO in December 2016, he has made key changes at multiple cable networks owned by the company, including BET, MTV, CMT, and VH1. Kent Alterman also took over as president of Comedy Central in 2016, though before Bakish became CEO.