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Diane Nelson, president of DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Consumer Products, who has been on leave for several months, is not returning to the studio.
Nelson took a leave of absence in late March in order to focus on family-related issues. She had been expected to return, but sources say that very recently she decided not to resume her duties, announcing her plan to Warner Bros. Entertainment CEO Kevin Tsujihara.
Tsujihara on Wednesday revealed the move in a companywide announcement.
“Diane has been a friend and colleague as well as a valued member of the Warner Bros. family for more than 20 years,” he said. “Throughout her tenure, her leadership and contributions have helped shape the way the studio operates today, and we’re better for having had her on our team. While we’re sad she’ll be leaving us, we completely respect and support her decision. Whatever her next chapter holds, I know she’ll make it amazing.”
The interim executive structure established during her leave will remain for the time being. That framework sees Thomas Gewecke, who serves as chief digital officer and executive vp strategy and business development at Warner Bros., overseeing the DC executive management team of Dan DiDio, Jim Lee, Geoff Johns and Amit Desai. Warner Bros. Consumer Products president Pam Lifford will now report directly to Tsujihara.
“Warner Bros. has been my home for over 20 years with a wide variety of incredible professional experiences,” Nelson said in a statement. “The last nine — rebuilding and managing DC Entertainment — have been a particular highlight and privilege. With the support and talents of our staff and creators, I am proud to leave DC even stronger than when I joined it. I will miss everyone — particularly my executive management team — without whom none of our achievements could have been realized. And I am excited to take on my next professional adventure.”
Nelson’s decision to leave is a major one, as the executive has had a sizable impact after spending 22 years at Warners. Early on, she developed a close relationship with Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and spearheaded the management of what became one of the biggest franchises and brands in the first decade of the 21st century.
In addition, while Nelson served as president of Warner Premiere, the direct-to-DVD feature film and short-form digital content division, as well as executive vp global brand management for Warner Bros. Entertainment, it was as DC president that she perhaps had the biggest impact.
Prior to Nelson’s boarding in 2009, the DC properties suffered from a haphazard management approach as various divisions took their own initiatives in working on the characters and titles while the main publishing brand seemed to cool in the face of its competitor Marvel. Nelson served as a focal conduit for DC, establishing cohesive partnerships with the movie, television and video game divisions, getting all of them on the same page with Warners.
Nelson revitalized the DC publishing unit, overseeing a culture change that made it talent-friendly and building up new talent such as writers Scott Snyder and Tom King and artist Liam Sharp. Author Neil Gaiman returned to DC under the exec’s tenure, and the company also snagged John Romita Jr. Nelson also oversaw the company’s move from its historic home in New York to Burbank.
Her biggest success was realized in television, where in partnership with Warner Bros. Television Group, DC built an impressive lineup of shows, ranging from The CW’s hits Arrow and Supergirl to the recent Black Lightning. It is poised for more growth as Pennyworth, based on Batman’s butler, is being developed at Epix, while two others shows are being adapted for the DC digital streaming service.
Warners’ DC films have been decidedly mixed in quality and box-office performance, but it was under Nelson’s watch that Wonder Woman, the exec’s favorite superhero and a character that spent almost 30 years in development hell, made it to the big screen and became a pop culture phenomenon.
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