HBO today promoted company veteran Bill Nelson to chairman and CEO, bumping the former HBO COO’s status from interim network head following Chris Albrecht’s forced exit last month to a permanent position running the Time Warner-owned premium programmer.

As expected, Time Warner chairman and CEO Dick Parsons and president and CEO Jeff Bewkes promoted from within HBO’s ranks instead of looking outside, with external candidates being bandied about including former Viacom/MTV Networks veteran Tom Freston.

Unlike Albrecht, HBO’s new chairman and CEO didn’t rise through the ranks on the creative side but on the company’s financial track. Nelson joined HBO in 1984 as VP and assistant controller and was promoted to SVP and CFO in 1991. In 1994 he was named EVP, and in 2000 added I.T., business affairs and technology operations to his financial oversight duties before being promoted to COO in March 2006.

Prior to joining HBO, Nelson worked at corporate sibling Time Inc. as director of external reporting and risk management for five years, a position he held after working as a CPA at Ernst & Young.

He now oversees a restructured executive team led by three other HBO veterans who were considered in the running for Albrecht’s job—Harold Akselrad, Eric Kessler and Richard Plepler—who were today elevated to HBO Co-Presidents.

The trio are splitting responsibilities in an expansion of their current roles. Akselrad’s bailiwick is legal and business affairs, film acquisition and HBO’s technology groups, and he wil continue to serve as HBO’s General Counsel. Kessler, the company’s head of affiliate sales and marketing executive, continues to oversee worldwide marketing and distribution of HBO networks and content. Plepler maintains responsibility for HBO’s programming and corporate communications.

HBO’s new head of programming was also confirmed today as Michael Lombardo, who reports to Plepler in his new capacity as president, HBO programming group and West coast operations. Lombardo, like Nelson, came up through the business rather than creative side of the company; in this case, legal and business affairs instead of finance.

Lombardo was promoted from EVP, business affairs, production and programming operations (a position he held since Jan. 2003), and will also report to Akselrad on issues pertaining to legal and business affairs. Lombardo joined HBO in June 1983 as associate counsel, responsible for the legal affairs of HBO’s East Coast Original Programming and HBO Sports.

His direct reports are now Colin Callender, president, HBO Films; Ross Greenburg, president, HBO Sports; Sheila Nevins, president, HBO Documentaries & Family, and Carolyn Strauss, president, HBO Entertainment. There was  speculation in the press following Albrecht’s ouster that Callender would lead the programming group in HBO’s new structure.

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