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Warner Bros. Chooses Studio Chief from Digital Ranks: Meet the New Boss, Tsujihara

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood January 28, 2013 at 1:30PM

Hollywood's biggest film and television studio, Warner Bros., has a tradition of hanging onto its chairmen for a long time. For two decades after Ted Ashley left the studio in 1980, Terry Semel and Bob Daly ran the TV and move divisions. TV exec Barry Meyer took over as studio chairman in 1999, with Alan Horn and various production chiefs running the motion pictures group, most recently--and effectively--15-year Warners vet Jeff Robinov.
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Kevin Tsujihara
Kevin Tsujihara

Hollywood's biggest film and television studio, Warner Bros., has a tradition of hanging onto its chairmen for a long time. For two decades after Ted Ashley left the studio in 1980, Terry Semel and Bob Daly ran the TV and move divisions. TV exec Barry Meyer took over as studio chairman in 1999, with Alan Horn and various production chiefs running the motion pictures group, most recently--and effectively--15-year Warners vet Jeff Robinov, who replaced Horn, who is now at Disney.

"This is a company that is 90 years old and basically has had just four management teams," Daly told the LAT. "It's the culture of the studio — its history and continuity — that makes Warner Bros. so special. There's such a family feeling there."

With 42 years at Warners and 14 as a sturdy and effective chairman, Meyer postponed his retirement until the end of 2013 as three executives have jockeyed for his job since 2010: Robinov, TV group chief Bruce Rosenblum, and increasingly powerful home entertainment and digital czar Kevin Tsujihara. Well, it's indicative of how the business is moving that Time Warner chairman/CEO Jeff Bewkes--the face of the company on Wall Street--  has given his top job to Tsujihara. One reason is that Tsujihara works well with the others--who don't get along with each other.

Bewkes stated:

"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."

And in an unusually candid statement, Rosenblum adds:

“Obviously, I'm disappointed; who wouldn't be?  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."

Thus it remains to be seen if ambitious 24-year Warners vet Rosenblum, who was elected chairman of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences last year, and Robinov will be willing to stay at the studio as they report to one-time-peer and colleague Tsujihara. He starts his new gig on March 1.

This article is related to: Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Bros.


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.