Jamie Bosworth, founder and CEO of the Back9Network – a fledgling golf lifestyle TV and online programmer based in Hartford – has resigned, the company announced Friday.
Bosworth quit "to pursue other career opportunities," Back9 confirmed in a statement shortly after midday. There was no further explanation.
His exit came about five weeks after Back9's announcement that it had signed a multiyear deal for a channel on DirecTV, its first television contract, and that it would be adding many as 40 jobs to its existing staff of about 50.
The new CEO will be Charles Cox, who has been Back9's chief financial officer and head of business development since joining the company in 2012. "He will guide the company as it launches on-the-air Sept. 29th on DIRECTV, raises additional capital, and negotiates growth on pay television platforms both in the U.S. and internationally," the Back9 statement said.
"I'm excited for the opportunity to lead Back9Network, as we take the network from its conceptual vision to its launch as a viable 24/7 TV network for viewers, advertisers, and pay television distributors," Cox said in the statement. "We've assembled a tremendous team from the top media companies in the country, and we are focused on creating the top television and online destination for the 25 million active golfers in the U.S."
Back9 has offices in the Phoenix building and a studio that's been under construction across Constitution Plaza. The company said the studio will be open in time to launch the DirecTV shows in September.
Delays in Back9's original predictions of a contract for a satellite or cable broadcast startup have been closely watched, partly because of a controversial state economic development package of $5 million that's part of the $30 million in overall financing raised by the company.
Back9's deal with the state Department of Economic and Community Development has included: a $100,000 grant and $250,000 loan in 2012 under the Small Business Express Program, for which the agency says payments are current; and two loans under the agency's Manufacturers' Assistance Act program, one in 2012 for $750,000 and one in 2013 for $4 million, for which payments are deferred until 2017 and 2018.
Up to now Back9 has had an online audience only. Its back9network.com website offers features and videos about players' personalities and other subjects surrounding the game – as opposed to the well-established Golf Channel, which more heavily emphasizes coverage of golf tournaments.
For example, the website Friday offered a text-and-video feature on the "Top 9 Golf Video Games of All Time." The lead story on the home page was about pro golfer Dustin Johnson taking a leave of absence for "personal challenges."
In anticipation of the broadcast launch, Back9 has hired some prominent names, including Ahmed Rashad as executive producer and host.
One of the company's early hires was Bosworth's wife, Jennifer Bosworth, a former reporter on FOX CT. She recently left the company, however, and the couple is divorcing after three years of marriage.
Observers say it is unclear whether the deal with DirecTV will lead to a cable contract with a major carrier, including Comcast, which owns the Golf Network.
DirecTV will place Back9 on Channel 262, near other lifestyle channels, Back9 said.
"This long-term agreement provides us with a strong initial television distribution-base and sends a clear message to the marketplace of our goal of becoming a fully distributed lifestyle network," Bosworth said in a written release in June.
Back9 has generated some unfavorable publicity. It issued a public apology last November for a video in which Jennifer Bosworth appeared that was posted on the website containing sexual references and vulgar language. Then, in April, there again was criticism, although not as severe, over a photo of four scantily clad women – including Jennifer Bosworth – that was posted on the Instagram photo-sharing social media service on the Internet.
Last January, The Courant reported that Steve Shaw – who'd been working as a consultant for Back9 with the title of vice president – claimed in a lawsuit that the company laid off him despite assurances he would be hired full-time. Shaw also said the company owed him tens of thousands of dollars. That lawsuit has been settled under undisclosed terms, court records show.
The Courant reported in its Capitol Watch blog in December that Back9 had hired Jason Veretto, who is the spouse of Malloy's staff chief Mark Ojakian. Ojakian said he obtained written clearance from state ethics officials for Veretto, a former mail carrier, to work for Back9 in October 2012. Veretto started as an "independent contractor" there in August 2012, and became a full-time employee in May 2013, a Back9 spokesman said.
Although Back9 did not offer a detailed explanation for Bosworth's departure, the company's chairman, Sandy Cloud, said in Friday's press release: "We're very appreciative of all that Jamie has done in helping create and develop the Back9Network brand and wish him great success in his future endeavors. "We are confident in our new management team to guide Back9 as we launch on-the-air and embark on our next stage of growth."
In other changes announced Friday:
--Back9 President Carlos Silva will add to his duties the role of chief operating officer, "responsible for all day-to-day TV and digital network responsibilities," the company statement said.
--Co-founder Reid Gorman will be chief administrative officer and executive vice president for golf industry relations – making him the company's "lead liaison within the golf industry, taking advantage of his relationships and years of experience as a senior executive within the golf community."