HBO reins handed to vet Nelson

Time Warner sets new regime following Albrecht's exit

The new regime at HBO was announced this past week as parent company Time Warner Inc. appointed Bill Nelson chairman and CEO (HR 6/6).

Nelson, who last month was named interim CEO after the departure of Chris Albrecht, will lead a restructured management team. HBO vets Harold Akselrad, Eric Kessler and Richard Plepler were elevated to the newly created positions of HBO co-presidents.

Time Warner president and COO Jeff Bewkes said that HBO is reverting to a management style not unlike when he ran the network during the 1990s, when the CEO was not focused on creative aspects.

"HBO has sometimes had a CEO from programming and sometimes someone like me that wasn't," he said. "Bill is a natural leader that everyone here trusts."

As expected, HBO also an-nounced the promotion of Michael Lombardo to president of the programming group and West Coast operations (HR 6/4). He reports to Plepler, who will be the top exec on the programming side.

The elevation of Nelson, who has been COO at HBO since 2000, was no surprise to insiders, who all along expected the job to remain internal. There was some speculation that a second exec would join him as a joint CEO.

Nelson's previous duties will be redistributed among the other three executives. Akselrad will manage legal and business affairs, film acquisition and HBO's technology groups as well as continue to serve as HBO's general counsel. Lombardo also will report to Akselrad on legal and business affairs issues.

Kessler will oversee the marketing and worldwide distribution of HBO networks and content. He adds international oversight to his portfolio.

In addition to programming, Plepler will continue to oversee corporate communications. He has had a hand in HBO's creative direction as a long-standing member of the company's program-planning committee.

Nelson has been at HBO since 1984. He has concentrated on HBO's financial strategy for much of that time in a variety of different posts.