Big sigh of relief as Harpo stays put

The announcement that Oprah’s Harpo Production would remain in Chicago after Oprah’s syndicated show ends in September, 2011, was the best Christmas gift Harpo employees and the company’s many local suppliers could receive this year.

But Tim Bennett, Harpo, Inc.’s president, is not remaining. He will retire from the company at the end of May and plans to move to Santa Barbara.

Two Harpo executives have replaced Bennett, who has been the man behind the scenes for 15 years. Oprah brought him aboard from Ch. 7, where they had worked together before her show went into syndication and she became a household word.

The two new presidents are Sheri Salata, 50, the Oprah show’s executive producer and 14-year Harpo veteran, and Erik Logan, 38, a former radio executive has been Harpo’s executive VP since mid-2008.

In announcing their appointment, Oprah said, “Harpo Productions is a world-class production company in Chicago and will? continue on after ?The Oprah Winfrey Show’ sunsets.

“Under ?Sheri and Erik’s leadership, I am confident in Harpo’s future and know that we will continue to create quality programming with compelling content for?all platforms. Not even the sky is the limit for this company.”

Harpo Productions plans to develop and produce new and continuing shows for syndication, prime time, cable, digital, radio and emerging platforms from Chicago.

The transition to a large assortment of content produced out of the Washington St. studio will be a huge boon for the local industry.

To everyone’s relief, it won’t suffer the loss of millions of dollars worth of annual Harpo business that might have left with Oprah’s departure.

And if all goes well, i.e., lots of new shows as the new leaders have indicated, there may be a lot more Harpo business to go around.