Why Jeff Robinov Might Make Sense for Fox (Analysis)
Jeff Robinov Set to Negotiate Warner Bros. Exit
The departure of film studio chief Jeff Robinov from Warner Bros. has been like a slow-motion car wreck — perhaps the most spectacular and in some ways strangest Hollywood wipeout in years.
Everyone has gotten hurt. To a big swath of the Hollywood community, Warners appears irrational, upending years of stability by ushering out its successful heads of film and television — Robinov and Bruce Rosenblum — within six months of naming home entertainment chief Kevin Tsujihara the new CEO. (Tsujihara, cited for his background in new technology, was the only candidate to lead the studio who lacked experience in creating content.)
Robinov, meanwhile, appears as though he made sure that his once-strong relationship with Tsujihara was thoroughly poisoned before stalking off the job and leaking his decision to depart. “I don’t know what he’s doing,” says a top executive at a rival studio. “If you want to work for one of these companies, you can’t look like you’re off-center, the way you handle it all.”
The question is whether the strengths that Robinov demonstrated as head of the industry’s most prolific film studio — despite a few flops this winter, he's riding the success of Man of Steel and The Great Gatsby — outweigh his reputation for being difficult and quirky as he seeks another high-level executive job. There seems to be only one top studio job potentially available to Robinov. Fox is said to be looking for a creative partner for its film chief Jim Gianopulos. Sources say there has been no formal negotiation between Fox and Robinov but the door seems to be ajar.
Raising outside financing, possibly with a filmmaker, could be another option, as could creating a financier-production venture similar to Thomas Tull's Legendary Pictures, which co-financed many Warners pictures under Robinov's tenure. (Legendary is weighing whether to leave Warner Bros. for another studio, likely Universal.)
While many blame Warners for mishandling the situation, Robinov also has been widely perceived as throwing a protracted tantrum that came to a climax on Thursday when blogger Nikki Finke reported that the exec — who had been absent from the office all week — had decided to leave. Given the sympathetic spin of the Finke story, a number of top industry observers inferred that the leak came from Robinov or publicist Kelly Bush, who is a paid consultant for Warners but is said to be dedicated mostly to Robinov and was referred to in a 2011 New York Times article as "The Nikki Whisperer." (When asked whether Warners brass had reservations about its association with a consultant who might have contributed to the trashing of Tsujihara, a studio rep says, “We have worked closely with Kelly Bush for several years and found her to be highly professional. We have no knowledge or belief that she participated in this matter.” Bush says she had nothing to do with the media surrounding Robinov's departure. "I referred every press inquiry directly to the studio without comment and nothing more," Bush says. "The suggestion of impropriety on my part is not only factually inaccurate, but also offensive, given the potential conflicts of interest and my longstanding ethical reputation in the industry.”)