Analysis: After a Disruptive Executive Shakeout, Will Warner Bros. Finally Stabilize?

Jun 25, 2013  •  Post A Comment

Jeff Robinov’s exit as boss of Warner Bros.’ film operation appears to be the final chapter in what has been a disruptive executive shakeout for the media giant, TheWrap.com reports in a piece that poses the question of whether things are finally ready to stabilize.

The “corporate bake-off” for the studio’s top position, the piece says, “left nearly everyone close to the competition burned.”

Brent Lang & Lucas Shaw write: “When Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes picked Kevin Tsujihara to run Warner Bros. in January, it should have ended any questions about who was in charge. Instead, it led to months of instability at a studio known for steady transfers of power.

“And in the end, it hasn’t made Bewkes look particularly deft.”

Robinov and TV boss Bruce Rosenblum — the two candidates who didn’t get the job — both left the company after grumbling about how things went down, the piece notes.

The report quotes Michael Yoshikami, founder and CEO of Destination Wealth Management, saying: "It was distracting. I was surprised [Bewkes] used this strategy. I can’t think of a situation where this approach has led to a positive outcome. It creates a situation where it’s difficult for people to work together."

The focus now is on what happens moving forward, the report notes.

“As public as Robinov’s fight with upper management became, some expect it to now quiet down and return to normal,” the story reports, quoting one Warner Bros. executive saying: “Everyone was anticipating large fallout with a greater staffing shuffle.”

However, some observers fear that the new structure, with three veteran execs essentially taking over from Robinov, might create further dysfunction, the story says.

“Sue Kroll will be running marketing and distribution; Greg Silverman overseeing production; and Toby Emmerich, continuing to head New Line,” the piece notes. “But since no one is taking Robinov’s position as studio chief, that may well create its own competitive dynamic among a trio of ambitious executives. All three will report to Tsujihara.”

One industry executive who works closely with the studio indicated that may not be a problem, telling TheWrap: “They aren’t really threats to one another. Sue Kroll and Greg and Toby all want to rule the world or they wouldn’t be in those jobs, but they also all know they can have power in their respective lanes. Both Toby and Greg need Sue Kroll to market their movies.”

The report adds: “Tsujihara has created the same structure — and potentially the same internal tensions — on the television side. A trio of longstanding executives have replaced Rosenblum: Peter Roth serves as president and chief content officer; Craig Hunegs is president of business and strategy; and Jeffrey Schlesinger is now president of television distribution.”

Sounding a partially optimistic note was Hal Vogel, CEO of Vogel Capital Management, who “told TheWrap that the current structure could work if all of the executives are given narrowly defined portfolios and stick to them, but said that he did not believe having three or more people in control of an institution works smoothly over the long run.”

Said Vogel: "Corporate politics, and especially the version of corporate politics in Hollywood, evolves in the same way as in the animal kingdom. More power will eventually accrue more to one person than the others."

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