New Details of How Kevin Tsujihara Won Warner Bros
Warner Bros.' Kevin Tsujihara: 'We're Going to Build a Film Franchise' Around New 'Harry Potter' Series
This story first appeared in the Feb. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
It might not have been pretty, but Time Warner chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes might have made the best choice.
The consensus inside and outside Warner Bros. is that Bewkes did not cover himself in glory with the messy, protracted process that went into choosing a new CEO for the studio. But in Bewkes' naming the long-shot choice -- home entertainment president Kevin Tsujihara -- many insiders say they feel relieved and even optimistic.
"Kevin's a leader. He's an adult. He's very fair-minded," says one insider. Although the fate of the other two internal competitors for the job -- Bruce Rosenblum, president of the Warner Bros. Television Group, and film studio chief Jeff Robinov -- remains unclear, many say Warners has enough depth of talent to remain dominant with or without them. "What's been more destructive is the not knowing," this source says.
Tsujihara, 48, heads the most digital-oriented aspect of Hollywood's most prolific studio, which could position him to preside over an evolving business model. But he lacks creative experience making films or, more important, television programs. Bewkes had said that Time Warner primarily is a TV company, which seemingly pointed to Rosenblum as the choice. (Warners is a leading supplier to the networks, with such hit shows as CBS' The Big Bang Theory, ABC's The Middle and NBC's The Voice.) Rosenblum also was the longtime protege of outgoing chairman Barry Meyer, who tells THR that "Kevin is the right person to unify the team and make it successful."
Analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities, who calls himself "a huge Tsujihara fan," suggests that Hollywood insiders might be underestimating the importance of Tsujihara's new-technology background: "Kevin isn't a creative guy … but I don't think that matters to Bewkes as much as having a guy in charge who understands the opportunities and threats posed by digital distribution. Kevin definitely gets it, probably better than any media CEO." Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research Group agrees: "Tsujihara's selection reflects the complexity of this new ecosystem."
Several insiders also believe that Bewkes simply had a personal, even emotional preference for the affable Tsujihara. "He picked a person with whom he is personally most comfortable -- period," says one veteran Warners hand. And these observers believe Bewkes spent months wrestling with conflicting impulses. An executive closely associated with the company says he believes Rosenblum "had it in the bag and overplayed his hand by acting assumptively, internally and externally." This observer adds: "Bewkes doesn't like assumptive people. He likes being contrarian."