Warner Bros.: Succession questions still linger

Barry Meyer re-ups, while Tsujihara remains a favorite

In announcing that Barry Meyer will remain in place as chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. through December 2013, Time Warner chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes is buying himself more time to sort out the future of the storied studio.

That's not the takeaway that the company prefers from Wednesday's announcement -- that top Warner execs Jeff Robinov, Bruce Rosenblum and Kevin Tsujihara will share power as part of a new Office of the President and report to Meyer. "What we've announced today is the leadership structure of Warner Bros. for the next 3 1/2 years," TW spokesman Keith Cocozza said.

While TW clearly wants to put an end to the jockeying among the three valued executives, the company would not address whether Meyer, 66, will be replaced when he retires.

The question of succession has loomed at TW ever since Bewkes decided in March 2009 that contracts for Meyer and Warners president Alan Horn would run only through 2011. Many in the industry expected that meant Bewkes would name new leadership by now. But though Bewkes wanted to hang on to his three in-house candidates for promotion, he was not prepared to anoint any of them yet.

Adding to the sense that the succession issue has been postponed rather than resolved is a perception in the industry -- and confirmed by a person close to the situation -- that Tsujihara might be the first among equals in his ability to relate to Bewkes. The CEO is said to feel that Tsujihara is the most analytical and deal-oriented of the three, though he doesn't have the breadth of relationships in the industry that Robinov and Rosenblum do.

So the handicapping is likely to continue. One of the top three execs could emerge from the group, or Bewkes could turn to an outsider when Meyer retires.

This month, The Hollywood Reporter exclusively revealed that Bewkes was leaning toward extending Meyer's contract and that Horn's role could be diminished.

The triumvirate at the top will report to Meyer beginning in April.

As Time Warner announced, Horn will remain in his current role for the next six months but will leave eight months earlier than his contract stipulates, segueing into a consultancy that also will go through the end of 2013.

Robinov, president of the Warners film group, will take on the responsibility for greenlighting films, which now belongs to Horn. Rosenblum is president of the television group, and Tsujihara is president of the home entertainment group.

Each will retain his responsibilities while becoming more engaged in the operations of the overall company, the announcement said.

"After a great deal of thought and many discussions with Barry and Alan, we decided that this phased plan was in the best interest of Warner Bros. and its businesses," Bewkes said. "Barry and Alan have overseen the most successful years in the company's history, and I am very pleased that they are remaining to guide this transition and to ensure as little disruption to our operations as possible."

Bewkes continued, "The formation of the Office of the President acknowledges the many contributions Jeff, Bruce and Kevin have made and the leadership they continue to show not only in their businesses but in our industry as well."

Whereas Meyer said that the plan underlines the "stability and consistency" for which Warners is known, Horn, who will be making an early exit, said: "It's been a privilege and an honor to work at Warner Bros. and to build its motion pictures operations into a global force. From our beloved Harry Potter to all the wonderful films we have going forward, I am very proud of what we've accomplished and happy that Barry and I will continue to provide support to the studio going forward."

Meyer and Horn first took the reins of the studio in 1999.