Kevin Tsujihara has resigned his post as chairman-CEO of Warner Bros. following an investigation into his relationship with actress Charlotte Kirk and allegations he used his clout to help her find work at the studio.
In a statement, Tsujihara said he realized “my continued leadership could be a distraction and an obstacle to the company’s continued success.” Warner Bros. parent WarnerMedia said the company would unveil an interim leadership team on Tuesday.
“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.,” said WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey. “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.”
WarnerMedia said its investigation into allegations of misconduct against Tsujihara is continuing, with his cooperation. Stankey, in a memo to WarnerMedia staffers, vowed to try to limit the disruption from the abrupt leadership shift for employees.
“I also want to thank all of our employees, particularly the teams at Warner Bros., for your patience and honesty, and we will continue to lean on your collective resiliency, dedication and professionalism as we chart a new path for our company together,” Stankey wrote.
Tsujihara had headed the studio since early 2013. He’d been with Warner Bros. since 1994, starting out in business development and rising through the ranks in home entertainment.
Tsujihara’s downfall came after the Hollywood Reporter published a lengthy report about the alleged extramarital affair between Tsujihara, who is married, and British actress Kirk in 2013. Tsujihara was accused of using his power as studio chief to help get her hired by producers on Warner Bros.-affiliated projects.
Kirk is on record as saying she was not a victim and that the relationship was consensual. She has been accused of trying to leverage her sexual relationship with Tsujihara as pressure to help find her acting roles.
“I might have felt used at the time but I don’t now. Not at all. I was sad it ended badly,” Kirk told the Daily Mail in an interview published Sunday. “I did not pick a fight but I had to fight when one was brought to me. I was not intimidated or embarrassed and my real regret is that those friendships turned out be fragile.”
Tsujihara had a strong reservoir of support among many Warner Bros. staffers. But in the current climate, with heightened scrutiny on executive behavior following more than a year of #MeToo revelations, the report of Tsujihara’s involvement with an actress made it untenable for him to continue on as the studio chief.
The swirl of events is a jolt for the studio that for years was the most stable in Hollywood in terms of senior management. Tsujihara replaced Barry Meyer in the chairman-CEO slot in March 2013. Meyer served a 14-year stretch in the top job. His predecessors — Bob Daly and Terry Semel — had a nearly 20-year run.
For AT&T, Tsujihara’s exit is a harsh reminder of the high stakes and high profile of its Hollywood-based businesses. The report that spurred Tsujihara’s ouster was published just two days after the executive had his portfolio expanded with the plan for Warner Bros. to assume oversight of WarnerMedia’s Cartoon Network, Turner Classic Movies and other assets amid AT&T’s restructuring of the Turner division.
Here are the full memos from Tsujihara and Stankey:
Over the past week and a half, I have been reflecting on how the attention on my past actions might impact the company’s future. After lengthy introspection, and discussions with John Stankey over the past week, we have decided that it is in Warner Bros.’ best interest that I step down as Chairman and CEO.
I love this company and the people that make it so great. I’ve been honored to head this organization and work alongside all of its talented employees over the past 25 years. Together we’ve built this studio into an unequivocal leader in the industry.
However, it has become clear that my continued leadership could be a distraction and an obstacle to the company’s continued success. The hard work of everyone within our organization is truly admirable, and I won’t let media attention on my past detract from all the great work the team is doing.
I am overwhelmed and grateful for the outpouring of support I have received from colleagues and industry partners during this difficult time.
Again, I am so proud of the great work that you do every day to make Warner Bros. the gold standard in our industry. It has been a pleasure to work alongside each and every one of you, and I wish you all the absolute best.
To: WarnerMedia colleagues
From: John Stankey
I want to let you know that following discussions over the past week, Kevin Tsujihara will step down from his role as Chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. It was a decision made with the best, long-term interests of the Company, our employees and our partners in mind.
Kevin has acknowledged that his mistakes are inconsistent with the Company’s leadership expectations and could impact the Company’s ability to execute going forward. During his 25 year tenure, Kevin contributed greatly to the growth and success of the studio, and for that we thank him. I would like to personally thank him for the support he provided me following the close of our merger.
You have my commitment to work diligently and quickly to minimize any disruption in the day-to-day operations of the studio as a result of this leadership transition. I will share an interim leadership structure with all of you tomorrow.
I also want to thank all of our employees, particularly the teams at Warner Bros., for your patience and honesty, and we will continue to lean on your collective resiliency, dedication and professionalism as we chart a new path for our company together.