AT&T Steps Up Search for New Warner Bros. Studio Chief

(Bloomberg) -- Warner Bros. movie-division head Toby Emmerich is among the candidates to lead the entire studio as parent AT&T Inc. seeks a successor to ousted Chief Executive Officer Kevin Tsujihara, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

John Stankey, head of AT&T’s WarnerMedia, has begun reaching out to individuals who could replace Tsujihara, who left in March after having a sexual relationship with an actress seeking movie roles at the studio. Stacey Snider, former film chief for 21st Century Fox, isn’t currently in the running, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. A decision could come in weeks, one of the people said.

AT&T Steps Up Search for New Warner Bros. Studio Chief

AT&T took over the Warner Bros. film and TV studios, along with HBO, CNN and other cable networks, with its $85 billion purchase of Time Warner Inc. Tsujihara’s surprise exit has complicated efforts to reorganize the businesses, now known as WarnerMedia. Stankey had expanded Tsujihara’s portfolio to include children’s cable networks such as the Cartoon Network just as the scandal hit.

The company lost other high-profile executives in the transition, including HBO leader Richard Plepler, and David Levy, who oversaw TNT, TBS, CNN and other cable channels. AT&T has begun cutting jobs at WarnerMedia, though Stankey has said they won’t be sweeping. Last month, he named former NBC executive Bob Greenblatt to oversee the cable networks.

Prized Post

The top post at Warner Bros. is the biggest opening in Hollywood and a prized role. Warner Bros.’ CEO oversees vast film operations, with more than 30 releases annually, including superhero movies, as well as major TV shows and video-game franchises.

Snider, a free agent since Walt Disney Co. acquired Fox’s studio and much of its entertainment assets, has been talked about among Hollywood executives as a potential replacement. The 57-year-old, whose triumphs at Fox included the Oscar nominated “Bohemian Rhapsody,” held talks on a possible partnership with media heiress and investor Elisabeth Murdoch, people familiar with the matter said. They were first reported by the Information.

Representatives for Snider and Murdoch didn’t respond to requests for comment. A representative for Emmerich declined to comment.

Interim Committee

AT&T Steps Up Search for New Warner Bros. Studio Chief

For the time being, Stankey has set up a committee to run Warner Bros., led by Emmerich, TV head Peter Roth, and Chief Financial Officer Kim Williams. The move was intended to minimize disruption at the Burbank, California-based studio while AT&T conducts “a thorough search to find the best candidate” for the top job, Stankey said in a memo at the time.

Tsujihara rose through the ranks at Warner Bros. and was executive vice president of new media when tapped for the top job. The studio had record operating income last year, AT&T executives said in January. It’s possible that Stankey may struggle to find a suitable replacement and decide not to name a single person to fill the role, some of the people have suggested.

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