Will Bad Behavior Imperil Jeff Robinov’s Future at Warner Bros.? (EXCLUSIVE)
Now that Warner Bros.’ television and home entertainment divisions have been re-aligned, all eyes are focused on whether newly installed CEO Kevin Tsujihara will implement a similar management shakeup at the studio’s motion picture operation.
The fate of the movie group’s top executive, Jeff Robinov, is on the minds of those both inside and outside the Burbank lot. Despite his skills as a seasoned creative executive and a summer lineup of potential blockbusters that’s the envy of his rivals, Robinov, 54, has made some major missteps that raise questions about his leadership.
When he learned in late January that he hadn’t landed the CEO job at Warner Bros., the executive did something unthinkable: He yelled at and hung up the phone on his boss, Barry Meyer, after the WB honcho delivered the bad news to him the night before the announcement of Tsujihara’s promotion was made public.
Robinov’s allies suggest that his impolitic behavior resulted from his being in shock. Most in the industry saw it as a two-way race between Tsujihara and longtime TV chief Bruce Rosenblum, but Robinov had “deluded himself” into believing he could prevail in the nearly three-year bake-off to replace Meyer as chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment.
Meyer relayed the details of his disturbing phone calls with Robinov to Tsujihara and his New York-based boss, Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes. The next day, Robinov apologized to Meyer, who will leave the studio by year end after four decades with the entertainment company.
But people at the studio say Robinov went on to badmouth his higher-ups — which also quickly traveled back East to corporate headquarters. The buttoned-down Bewkes was apparently not amused, according to people familiar with the situation, but chalked it up to his disappointment. Bewkes is far more concerned with the performance of the movie division than he is with isolated incidents of questionable conduct, according to a Time Warner spokesman.
“Bewkes thinks Robinov has run the studio superbly, is impressed with the results he’s delivered and the slate he’s assembled,” said the spokesman. “Bewkes is very bottom-line oriented and is focused on Robinov’s performance.”
Warner Bros. is coming off a dismal first quarter of the year, with a number of box-office disappointments including “Gangster Squad,” its New Line unit’s “Jack the Giant Slayer” and “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.”
The studio has high hopes for its summer lineup — which includes “Man of Steel” (June 14), the raunchy R-rated sequel “The Hangover Part III” (May 23) and Legendary Pictures’ 3-D giant robots July 12 release “Pacific Rim,” directed by Guillermo del Toro. It is highly unlikely that Tsujihara would do anything to shake up the motion picture unit before these big movies are released. Sources say that Tsujihara, who is known for being methodical and pragmatic, has not yet made any decision on Robinov’s future.
While Robinov wasn’t shy about his dislike for Rosenblum, who left the studio today after being passed over for the CEO job, he had enjoyed a good relationship with Tsujihara, but executives at the studio say that began to fray as they competed for Meyer’s job. Robinov has told associates that he felt Tsujihara had turned his back on him.