Why Jeff Robinov Is Stuck in Executive Jail
With months left on his deal and Warner Bros. in no hurry to lose him -- or his access to talent like Christopher Nolan and Ben Affleck -- the ex-film chief must wait on potential suitors.
This story first appeared in the Aug. 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
One hopes that Jeff Robinov has a hobby he enjoys. For now, at least, the former Warner Bros. film chief appears to be stuck in limbo with months left on his contract, and Warners, according to sources, is in no hurry to resolve matters.
"I think it's going to take a while," says one high-level insider. "They don't have much of an incentive to let him out. They obviously were very irritated and upset with the way it went down." Warners also has reason to fear that if Robinov were to go elsewhere, high-profile talent including Christopher Nolan and Ben Affleck might follow. "They know he's going to be on a vendetta, and he's going to compete hard," says a talent rep.
According to sources, Robinov's contract does not expire until well into 2014. Rumors persist that Fox might be interested in him -- assuming the executive, who had greenlight authority at Warners, would accept a less powerful position under film chief Jim Gianopulos. But a source with knowledge of Robinov's situation says emphatically, "No one's going to engage in a conversation with someone who's not free and clear" of other contractual obligations.
Many have been critical of the "bake-off" that pitted key Warners execs against one another for the top job (with home entertainment chief Kevin Tsujihara emerging in January as the victor). But Warners' position is that Robinov engaged in increasingly bad behavior following Tsujihara's appointment, reaching a climax in June with a leaked story saying that Robinov would leave following "cruel" treatment by Tsujihara.
Since then, sources say there have been arguments about whether Robinov quit or was fired. Whatever the merits of the claims, clearly the studio has the upper hand. Aside from the damage that a court fight might do to Robinov's reputation, Warners could outspend him and the case would outlast his contract.
Meanwhile, Robinov continues to be paid a salary said to be more than $5 million and, according to sources, he has a rich package of benefits -- stock, pension, bonuses -- that will vest toward year's end. An associate says he is "relaxed," which is just as well because for now, says another source, Warners is "just not dealing with it. … They are not incentivized to settle him out."