Barry Meyer and Kevin Tsujihara Talk Warner Bros. CEO Transition

12:39 PM PST 01/28/2013 by Kim Masters
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Meyer (l) and Tsujihara (r).

"I hope both of them stay," Tsujihara says of TV head Bruce Rosenblum and film chief Jeff Robinov, who were passed over for the top studio job.

Barry Meyer and Kevin Tsujihara, the respective outgoing and incoming CEOs of Warner Bros., emphasize that their task is to keep Hollywood's largest studio functioning at the top of its game. The executives say they hope Bruce Rosenblum and Jeff Robinov -- both of whom were passed over for the top job -- will remain in the fold, a question foremost in the minds of observers inside and outside the company.

"I hope both of them stay," Tsujihara says in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter hours after he was appointed the studio's new CEO. "They're both very talented executives." Warner Bros. has been known for its stability, he says, but also for maintaining "a deep bench" in terms of executives and talent relationships. "The thing we're not going to change is the culture that makes Warner Bros. special," he adds.

Tsujihara, 48, who heads Warners' home video and digital operation, had been engaged in a bake-off of sorts with film chief Robinov and television head Rosenblum since the three executives were elevated to an "office of the president" last year by Time Warner chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes. That competition ended Monday with news that Tsujihara will take the top job in March as Meyer transitions out of the company. Rosenblum's and Robinov's plans are unclear.  

While some had seen Tsujihara as a dark-horse candidate because of his limited background in content creation, Meyer defends his experience. "For years now, Kevin has been responsible for one of our major revenue sources," he says. He adds that Tsujihara also had been involved with reading scripts and advising on film decisions. Content creation "has been part of his experience here, including work he's done developing the game business."

Tsujihara says he is "very proud of" the video game business that he's built, but he also signals that he intends to let division heads run their businesses. "The right adjective that I would use about our content creation is respect," he says. "I respect the process. I respect executives that are running those businesses. My job is to enable them to continue doing the great work that they're doing today. It's not about anything else."

Some observers believe Meyer had backed longtime protege Rosenblum, president of Warner Bros. Television Group, for the CEO job, but Meyer says, "Kevin is really the right person to unify the team and make it successful. .… Bruce has been a great protege, but so has Kevin. Bruce is a very valuable executive. Jeff Robinov is a very valuable executive. The choice of Kevin to head the team is the right choice because I believe it has a better chance of unifying the company."

Still, regarding Rosenblum and Warner Bros. Pictures Group president Robinov, he says, "There is plenty of room at Warner Bros. for executives of that caliber."

While many inside and outside the company have been critical of the protracted succession process, Tsujihara says, "The process among the three of us has been one thing, but as a whole, the company has been quite stable.

"Creatively and financially, it's hard to say we're not at the top of our game," he adds.

Meyer, too, stresses that Warners is "at the top of its game" and says: "We don't go through this [transition] process all that regularly. It's good to make a transition when you're in a position of strength. … Transitions sometimes are hard to do. There's no easy way to do it. What I've specifically tried to do is create a team of senior executives who have gotten a greater and greater understanding about the overall structure, the overall financials of the company."

Regarding the Tsujihara transition, Meyer says, "I'll be around to help him through the balance of this year."

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