LONDON -- Ronald S. Lauder, a pioneer of commercial broadcasting in Central and Eastern Europe, has stepped down as non-executive chairman at TV network Central European Media Enterprises, of which he was founder. He will leave the board.

Lauder was instrumental in establishing independent television broadcasting across Central and Eastern Europe, beginning with the launch of TV Nova in the Czech Republic in 1994 as that country's first commercial broadcaster. Since then, the company has expanded rapidly in the region. Lauder served as the non-executive chairman of the company's board for the past 20 years.

CME operates television channels in six Central and Eastern European markets: Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Romania, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia.

In a joint statement, Michael Del Nin and Christoph Mainusch, co-CEO of CME, said: "Over his illustrious career, Ronald has fostered the development of independent broadcasters in Central and Eastern Europe. Because of this, great entertainment and news programming has been able to flourish in these markets. We would like to acknowledge his foresight and initiative in working closely with so many in a part of the world he holds so close, to make his vision a reality."

Lauder said: "I'm honored to have played a part in the development of independent commercial television in Central and Eastern Europe. I could not have accomplished so much without the hard work and dedication of everyone at CME over the last 20 years. And most importantly, the success of our stations would not have been possible without the support of our viewers across the region."

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