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- All of Time Warner’s top executives have left the company since AT&T bought it last year.
- They include HBO’s Richard Plepler, who unexpectedly resigned last month, and Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara, who stepped down this week following a report that alleged he had a sexual relationship with an actress and promised to help her get roles.
After AT&T bought Time Warner last year for a massive $85 billion — taking control of Time Warner’s many assets including Warner Bros. and HBO in a deal that President Trump opposed — AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson sent a memo to employees.
"It’s been a long time coming, but well worth the effort: AT&T and Time Warner are now one company," Stephenson told employees in the June memo.
But the acquisition, which formed the new WarnerMedia, has brought with it a new set of complications. All of Time Warner’s top executives are out, less than a year after the deal finally closed after a months-long legal battle with the Justice Department, which sued AT&T in November 2017 in an effort to block the merger.
READ MORE: Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara is stepping down following a report alleging he had a sexual relationship with an actress and promised to help her get roles
From surprise resignations like HBO’s Richard Plepler to a sex scandal that forced Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara to resign this week, Time Warner’s leadership has undergone a major, and partially unexpected, shakeup.
Hollywood is buzzing about former 20th Century Fox chairman Stacey Snider as a potential replacement for Tsujihara at Warner Bros., according to The Wrap. Snider is officially out at Fox now that the Disney-Fox merger is complete (it closed on Wednesday).
Other potential candidates include former Disney COO Thomas Staggs; Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley; Gail Berman, the former Paramount president and current CEO of independent production company, The Jackal Group; and former CBS network president Nancy Tellum, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Whoever replaces Tsujihara, they’ll be expected to work more closely with HBO, develop content for AT&T’s upcoming streaming service, and manage Cartoon Network and Turner Classic Movies, cable channels that were once under Turner, according to Variety.
In the meantime, Warner Bros. is forming an interim leadership team until a replacement for Tsujihara is chosen, according to Variety. The team will include Warner Bros. motion pictures group chairman Toby Emmerich, Warner Bros. television group president and CCO Peter Roth, and Warner Bros. CFO Kim Williams.
It was expected that Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes would leave Time Warner, but he left it behind much faster than anticipated. He was expected to oversee the transition period before leaving, but exited shortly after the deal closed. John Martin, who ran Turner TV for over four years, also quickly departed after the closing.
And that’s not all.
Here are all the major leadership changes that have happened at WarnerMedia:
Jeff Bewkes — Former Time Warner CEO
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Bewkes was the former CEO of HBO from 1995 to 2008, when he became CEO of Time Warner. Bewkes was tasked with cleaning up a troubled Time Warner, which had acquired AOL in 2000. The merger was a disaster and lost Time Warner $100 billion in 2002 because of a write down on AOL, according to CNN.
Under Bewkes, Time Warner spun off AOL, Time Warner Cable, and Time Inc. AOL was eventually bought by Verizon, and Time Warner Cable was bought by Charter Communications (it’s now rebranded as Spectrum).
"I’m very proud about what we have accomplished together, and I hope you’re as excited as I am about the opportunities ahead,” Bewkes said in a resignation video in June. “Because as storytellers, as journalists, as business leaders and catalysts for change, our work is never really done. We can only run our leg of the relay, then pass the baton.”
Kevin Tsujihara — Former Warner Bros. CEO
Tsujihara was allegedly involved in a sexual relationship with actress Charlotte Kirk and promised to get her acting roles, according to a report from The Hollywood Reporter (Kirk has denied that the relationship impacted her casting, and has said that the relationship ended many years ago).
"It is in the best interest of WarnerMedia, Warner Bros., our employees and our partners for Kevin to step down as Chairman and CEO of Warner Bros.," WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey said in a statement on Monday. "Kevin has contributed greatly to the studio’s success over the past 25 years and for that we thank him. Kevin acknowledges that his mistakes are inconsistent with the Company’s leadership expectations and could impact the Company’s ability to execute going forward."
Tsujihara was the first person of Asian descent to be the head of a major movie studio, and was in the role since 2013. He joined Warner Bros. in 1994 as the director of special projects finance. Prior to being named CEO, he was the president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
WarnerMedia is continuing its investigation of Tsujihara with outside counsel and said he was cooperating.
Richard Plepler — Former HBO CEO
AP Photo/ Matt Sayles
Plepler unexpectedly resigned from his role of CEO of WarnerMedia’s premium cable network, HBO, last month. A replacement has not been chosen.
"Hard as it is to think about leaving the company I love, and the people I love in it, it is the right time for me to do so," he wrote in a memo to staff. "In the past weeks, I’ve thought a lot about the incredible journey of this company in the nearly 28 years that I have been blessed to be here. It’s a journey of great pride and accomplishment because so many of you, and many others before us, have made HBO a cultural and business phenomenon."
Plepler joined HBO in 1992, and became CEO in 2012 after serving as the network’s co-president.
Under Plepler, HBO continued its awards dominance, carrying its prestige status with Emmy-winning shows like "Game of Thrones," "Big Little Lies," and "Barry." The network always prided itself on quality over quantity, focusing heavily on a stacked Sunday night lineup.
But AT&T was quick to make its intentions for HBO known. The company wants to increase the amount of content HBO develops in an effort to compete with Netflix. Plans are in motion for two hours of primetime original programming on Monday nights along with Sundays, and AT&T is expected to launch its own streaming service this year that will include HBO.
"It’s not hours a week, and it’s not hours a month," WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey said in July. "We need hours a day. You are competing with devices that sit in people’s hands that capture their attention every 15 minutes. I want more hours of engagement."
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