2ND WRITETHRU (UPDATES 1:30 & 4:15 PM VERSIONS): Warner Bros Chairman/CEO Barry Meyer stays on for 2 more years. President/COO Alan Horn leaves next April and becomes consultant until the end of 2013. An Office Of The President is created and shared by Jeff Robinov, Bruce Rosenblum, and Kevin Tsujihara. Those are the headlines from today’s shakeup and succession announcement. This was expected, especially when Meyer kept dropping hints around Hollywood recently that he wanted to stay on. So was Horn, but the bad blood that’s existed between him and Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes is legion. After all, Horn never cozied up to Bewkes even when Jeff was rumored to be taking over the top Time Warner job. “Alan never reached out to Jeff. Even with all the rumors of Jeff’s impending promotion, Alan never chased a relationship with Jeff at all. Never,” according to an insider. That dictated Alan would be gone according to the March 2009 don’t-let-the-door-hit-in-you-in-the-ass schedule of 2 years dictated by Bewkes. But not Barry now. “Alan’s really very hurt. He’s a very prideful guy,” a Horn pal tells me today. “It would have been much easier for him if Barry was leaving at the same time. Until very recently, Alan’s expectation was that he and Barry would be.” (How Horn could not have known what everybody else in Hollywood did, that Meyer wanted another 2 years, demonstrates how out of touch he has been and still is. But that is the result of Alan’s peculiar arrogance.)
I’ve just learned that Bewkes behind the scenes clarified his intentions to the new co-president troika. He told them he was not delaying succession. Instead, he made it clear that in 2 1/2-to-3 years, the trio of execs will be running Warner Bros together — that is, unless one of them fucks up. Bewkes told them: “I’m not bringing someone in and I don’t want a horserace. The 3 of you bring different skill sets to this so I want you to do this together.”
So why was Barry renewed for 2 more years? I’m told to “ease the transition”. There’s the transition with Wall Street because Bewkes has begun positioning Time Warner as a TV-centric company, noting that 80% of the Big Media behemoth’s profitability is from Turner, HBO, and half of Warner Bros. But there’s also another transition Meyer must ease, according to some of my sources. “Bewkes is not so confident that Jeff [Robinov] is ready to step up, that he has the visibility or stature or personality to lead a theatrical division. Bewkes lets Rosenblum and Tsujihara talk to analysts. Robinov does not. Bewkes does not perceive Robinov at the same level. So Bewkes wants Barry on the front lines.” But, of all the co-presidenting trio, Robinov is the only one now with clear air. He no longer has to answer to Horn for greenlight authority after April 1st, and Meyer has always backburnered anything film-related. Whereas Rosenblum and Tsujihara still have their boss around. But Meyer gave them far more authority than Horn ever gave Robinov. (More on Robinov below.)
Meyer also positioned himself inside Hollywood and with Bewkes as the only mogul who could keep the upcoming Hollywood guild negotiations from running off the rails because he is the most extreme hardliner of all the studio and network bosses. (Indeed, his fellow moguls estimated to me that Barry extended the agony of the WGA strike by at least six weeks because he considered the labor action such a personal affront and didn’t “want to reward a strike”. But then, when SAG didn’t strike, he didn’t want to reward that either.) Today’s announcement comes just days from the kickoff of the negotiations season for contracts expiring in 2011. (On September 27th, SAG and AFTRA will begin jointly bargaining with the AMPTP for 7 weeks, followed by the DGA in mid-November. No date has yet been set for the WGA, whose contract ends May 1, 2011, but Meyer and the moguls and the AMPTP intend to negotiate with the writers last to ensure there’s the most Hollywood pressure on them.)
Back in late 2008-early 2009, when Meyer and Horn were renegotiating their own contracts, Bewkes balked at giving the Warner Bros duo a full 3-year, or 4-year, or 5-year vote of confidence. In the end, after not wanting to renew the pair, Bewkes kept them on a humiliating 2-year choke chain. Bewkes had only been in charge of Time Warner for one year, and Hollywood was waiting for him to shake things up at Warner Bros like when he re-possessed Bob Shaye’s New Line. He’s a cautious man, and he did the cautious thing.
At the time, cranky and tired Barry wanted to retire. But something happened to Meyer when he finally got his expiration date from Bewkes: it reanimated him. Suddenly, he was back doing his job aggressively. Warner Bros TV made a comeback after 2 years of losing clout when it couldn’t produce any successful new shows amid a plethora of expensive creative deals. But profitability wasn’t affected because of a legacy of TV hits. But credit also goes to Bruce Rosenblum, President of the Warner Bros Television Group, who for some time now has ably filled the power vacuum created by Meyer’s once imminent departure. Rosenblum now runs his division almost autonomously. If he titularly comes back under Meyer’s thumb, but don’t expect Bruce to give a shit. “Bruce is all about the hands-on creative and distribution and dealing-making process which Barry allowed him to do a lot more of in recent years. Also, while Barry is sitting back, Bruce is overseeing the TV strategy transition from analog to digital. All digital conversations are going through Bruce’s office.”
As for Horn, he just got more distracted and depleted after the rug was pulled out from under him. And just as stubborn (more…)