UPDATE: Toldja! Time Warner finally weighs in with the official press release — not sugar-coated, either — that Chris Albrecht (mug shot left) has been fired as chairman/CEO of HBO:
“Time Warner Inc. today announced that the Company and Chris Albrecht have agreed that he will no longer serve as chairman and CEO of Home Box Office, effective immediately. Mr. Albrecht said: ‘With great regret, at the request of Time Warner, I have agreed to step down as chairman and CEO of Home Box Office. I take this step for the benefit of my Home Box Office colleagues, recognizing that I cannot allow my personal circumstances to distract them from the business. I’m very proud of what we have achieved together at Home Box Office, and I wish everybody there many more successes in the future.’ Time Warner Chairman and CEO Richard D. Parsons said: ‘Jeff Bewkes and I believe that this is the right decision for the Company. We thank Chris for all of his contributions to Home Box Office over the years.'”
EXCLUSIVE: I’m told today that it was Jeff Bewkes, the chairman-in-waiting of parent company Time Warner, who pressured Chris Albrecht to take the leave of absence from HBO. But now I’ve spoken to sources who say the situation has ramped up several notches because of the Los Angeles Times‘ and my own reporting about Albrecht’s past behavior with women at the cable pay channel. The result, I hear, is that Albrecht is being told to quit or be fired. This comes when Albrecht only has six months left on his contract as chairman/CEO. I can tell you that, already, the inside jockeying to succeed Albrecht has begun. “We’re reached a point where he’s toast,” an HBO insider just told me. “He has very few options left. He’s got to resign now or he’ll be fired.” I’m told Time Warner’s Bewkes wants this resolved before the annual shareholder’s meeting takes place on May 18th.
I can also report that, even though TW chairman/CEO Dick Parsons told the media that “We take these matters very seriously and will monitor the situation closely,” the reality is that Parsons has yet to even speak to Albrecht after the HBO topper’s arrest on suspicion of physically assaulting his girlfriend during a working weekend in Las Vegas and his internal memo yesterday blaming alcohol and announcing a temporary leave of absence. (For the full backstory, read my previous What Happens In HBO, Stays In HBO… But Should It?) Of course, Bewkes has been Albrecht’s longtime boss and knew all about what I reported this morning were allegations of other incidents — at least two, “but I recall three,” according to one knowledgeable insider — involving Chris Albrecht and women at HBO over the years. All were quietly “handled” by the cable pay channel with no obvious career repercussions for Albrecht, the 22-year HBO veteran who rose to become chairman/CEO. But the weekend’s unfolding scandal jogged some memories, and people were recalling to me one past incident in particular: Albrecht’s alleged 1991 physical assault of his ex-lover and HBO subordinate Sasha Emerson, then a young and talented female exec working as senior vice president at HBO Independent Productions. I’m now told it was Bewkes who turned over the Albrecht / Emerson matter to HBO’s human resources group. “They brought in a mediator and sat them in a room together and realized she couldn’t keep working for him,” an insider explained. Bewkes “knew Chris was a womanizer, and always had contentious relationships with girlfriends, and engaged in behavior that affected the workplace. But he never wanted to see him have to leave.” I’m told that after this weekend’s Vegas incident, Albrecht was at first focused on whether or not the D.A. would charge him. (His TV actress/reporter girlfriend Karla Jensen isn’t going to press charges, HBO has said.) But then Bewkes forced Albrecht to focus on the larger problem. Now, Albrecht is being dumped. And it won’t even cost the company much.