2ND UPDATE (includes Robinov statement): Hollywood is stunned. Time Warner Chairman/CEO Jeff Bewkes just destabilized Warner Bros in a big way with today’s shockingly unexpected announcement that Kevin Tsujihara will take over Warner Bros on March 1st. I actually heard this two weeks ago from a source – and I didn’t believe it. That’s not a knock on Tsujihara’s ability. But no way Bewkes could ignore the fact that Bruce Rosenblum‘s Warner Bros Television Group accounts for 50% of overall Warner Bros revenues.* But Bewkes did. “Obviously, I’m disappointed; who wouldn’t be?” said Rosenblum, the TV president who was actively campaigning for the post, in a surprisingly candid statement. ”Warner Bros is a unique and special place and I know it will be in good hands with Kevin at the helm. I continue to be proud of our accomplishments and I have the most respect and admiration for our amazing team at the studio – a team that is thriving in an ever-transforming business.” Warner Bros Film Group topper Jeff Robinov at first remained silent and his office told Deadline it was “highly unlikely” he would have a statement. Now, one has been released – and it’s studiedly upbeat: “I am truly happy and proud of Kevin. We are both good friends and colleagues and I think he’s an excellent choice for the job. The Company will be in great shape under his leadership,” said Robinov. In fact, insiders tell me that Bewkes further humiliated Rosenblum and Robinov by not telling them about the choice of Tsujihara. I understand the duo had to hear about it at the last minute late last week from outgoing Barry Meyer.
[*Time Warner doesn't break out Warner Bros in its financial statements so that statistic may include Turner which doesn't report to Bruce. Warner Bros results are included in the 'Film And TV Entertainment' unit. It accounted for 40% of Time Warner revenues in the first 9 months of last year - $8.3B out of $20.6B - but just 17% of operating profit - $676M out of $3.9B. While Time Warner doesn't break out numbers for Warner Bros Television, it has revenues for "Theatrical Product" and "Television Product." Theatrical product accounted for $4B in the first 9 months ($1.4B from film rentals, $1.3B from home video and electronic delivery, $1.1B from TV licensing, and $127M from consumer products and other). Television product came to $3.4B ($2.6B from TV licensing, $617M from home video and electronic delivery, and $208M from consumer products and other).]
Here’s what Bewkes and Meyer said about their decision in a joint statement: “Given the talent, depth and strength of the Warner Bros’ leadership, selecting our next CEO was not a decision that could be made hastily or lightly. But we both agreed that Kevin is the right person to lead Warner Bros. and to build on its proud heritage as the world’s most storied content producer… In 2005, Kevin was appointed to head the then newly formed Home Entertainment Group, which he has skillfully led through a difficult transition and which remains number one in the industry by every measure. Just as importantly, he is a leading voice in creating and deploying new digital models to ensure that we remain market leaders. We’ve both been very impressed with Kevin’s strategic understanding and intuitive grasp of the evolution of the consumer’s interaction with our television shows, films and video games, and his ability to visualize how our products will be enjoyed in the future.” Warner Bros Home Entertainment’s division covers home video as well as the company’s wide ranging videogame properties and investments, digital distribution, anti-piracy, and emerging technology operations
Few thought Robinov was seriously in the running for the top job since he’d only taken over as film studio president in Spring 2011 from outgoing Alan Horn (now heading up Walt Disney Studios after Bewkes unceremoniously kicked him to the curb). But conventional wisdom was that Rosenblum, who took over the TV group in 2005 the same year that Tsujihara took over Home Entertainment, had a near lock on the job – especially if Bewkes decided not to go outside. And an appointment of Rosenblum would have continued Meyer’s TV leadership at Warner Bros and therefore not been questioned. Sounds to me like Meyer betrayed Rosenblum. Of course, Rosenblum still has an alternative power platform as Chairman of the Board of the Academy Of Television Arts & Sciences since November 2011. Robinov, meanwhile, has kept and is keeping his head down, immersed in developing powerhouse franchises like The Hobbit and perhaps Man Of Steel to replace Harry Potter and the most recent Batman trilogy.
Undoubtedly, Tsujihara’s new appointment will spark debate inside and outside Hollywood over whether Home Entertainment is most important to the future of Big Media. And whether content or platform/delivery should dominate. Of course, Bewkes could have (and in my opinion, should have) done nothing for several more years, and simply allowed his Warner Bros troika to coexist as equals. Now Bewkes, especially given the harshly crude way he handled this announcement, is risking the loss of two superlative executives. Keep tuned.
January 28, 2013
To: Warner Bros. Colleagues
From: Jeff Bewkes and Barry Meyer
Subject: Kevin Tsujihara to Become Warner Bros. CEO
We are pleased to tell you that Kevin Tsujihara will become CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment beginning on March 1, 2013, with Barry remaining as Chairman for a transition period through the end of this year. Given the talent, depth and strength of the Warner Bros’ leadership, selecting our next CEO was not a decision that could be made hastily or lightly. But we both agreed that Kevin is the right person to lead Warner Bros. and to build on its proud heritage as the world’s most storied content producer.
As you may know, Kevin has been with the company for nearly two decades, serving in positions of increasing responsibility in finance, new media and strategy. In 2005, Kevin was appointed to head the then newly formed Home Entertainment Group, which he has skillfully led through a difficult transition and which remains number one in the industry by every measure. Just as importantly, he is a leading voice in creating and deploying new digital models to ensure that we remain market leaders. We’ve both been very impressed with Kevin’s strategic understanding and intuitive grasp of the evolution of the consumer’s interaction with our television shows, films and video games, and his ability to visualize how our products will be enjoyed in the future.
Beyond his business successes, those of you who have had the pleasure of working with Kevin know of his integrity, his good nature, his clear and understated management style, and his unabashed love of compelling storytelling. His dedication to the company, and his industry expertise have also earned him the respect and admiration of people across Time Warner and throughout the larger business community.
Combined with the exceptional talents and leadership capabilities of Bruce Rosenblum, President of Warner Bros. Television Group, and Jeff Robinov, President of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, we’re confident in Warner Bros.’ continued success.
We also want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for staying focused on what is most important during this period of management change at the company – Warner Bros.’ continued success. In 2012, Warner Bros. had another outstanding year, and we have great expectations for this year that will require the sustained, all-out effort of everyone at the company.
Great storytelling is what our company does better than anyone else, and that mission – along with Warner’s 90-year legacy – will be in excellent hands under Kevin. Please join us in congratulating him on his new role.