Studio Legends: Warner Bros.

Together, they amount to a Harvard Business school case study in executive stability. Bob Daly, 74, and Terry Semel, 67, often riding to work together, ruled Warner Bros. as chairmen and co-CEOs from 1981-99. “What we did was counterintuitive,” Semel says. While other studios were cutting back on movies, Warners increased its output, inviting in partners to share the risk. Its acquisition of Lorimar, bringing executives such as Leslie Moonves into the fold, also made it a dominant player in TV. “That was a big game-changer for us,” Daly says. Then, in ’99, they passed the baton to Barry Meyer, 66, and Alan Horn, 67, who adopted the same dual leadership style as chairman/CEO and president/COO, respectively. They’ve had TV hits like The Big Bang Theory, nurtured the Harry Potter franchise into $6.2 billion in tickets sold, and thanks to such movies as The Hangover and Inception have seen Warners become the first studio to hit the $1 billion domestic box-office mark for 10 consecutive years. Continuity, Meyer contends, “is a competitive advantage — in a world where businesses are characterized by heavy capital costs, if you start throwing management changes into the mix, you can really get into hot water.” Adds Horn, who will step down in April after a 12-year run, presiding over the Warners “family” has “been an honor.”          

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