Sue Kroll, president of worldwide marketing at Warner Bros. and one of the most powerful executives in Hollywood, is close to signing a new contract with the studio that will expand her authority to include movie distribution, individuals with knowledge of her status told TheWrap.
Kroll has been renegotiating her contract for the better part of this year, a process that has been complicated by the fact that her boss, Warner Bros. Studio President Jeff Robinov, does not know what his own status will be by the end of next year.
That is because Robinov is in an agonizing, yearlong bakeoff with his two co-presidents at Warner Bros., Kevin Tsujihara (right) of the Home Entertainment Group and Bruce Rosenblum (below) of the Television Group.
Time-Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes is expected to name one of the three to the post of chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment to replace Barry Meyer sometime before the end of 2013.
But while Bewkes deliberates, the tension has been high in the executive suites, with the unanswered question of succession the don't-ask-don't-tell topic for months on end.
Asked about Kroll's contract status, a spokesman for Warner Bros. told TheWrap, "We don't comment on rumor or speculation."
Kroll, who led the marketing behind the studio’s serial blockbusters “Harry Potter,” “The Hangover” and “The Dark Knight,” is considered one of the best in her field. She has been part of the Warner Bros. team for 18 years, and is considered close to Robinov.
She faced the challenge of dealing with the deadly shooting during the opening week of "The Dark Knight Rises" and helped shift the focus away from an association with the film to a "Colorado theater shooting." (Both "Dark Knight" films ultimately crossed $1 billion at the worldwide box office.)
But the uncertainty over succession has made it difficult for Robinov to respond to Kroll’s requests for growth in her position. If Robinov is promoted to Meyer’s position, Kroll would be a likely replacement as head of the movie studio. If Robinov is passed over for Rosenblum or Tsujihara -- as many insiders seem to believe will be the case -- his status will become less certain.
"She's been asking a lot of questions, and she can't get answers," said one person with knowledge of Kroll's thinking.
For months, as the studio has tried to get her to sign a new five-year contract, Kroll has been demanding a role that adds distribution to the divisions that report to her. That would make her position similar to the vice chairman role held by Jeff Blake at Sony Pictures Entertainment.
But months have dragged on without a resolution. Meanwhile, after Walt Disney Studio hired former Warner Bros chief Alan Horn, Kroll was speculated to be one of the executives he might recruit to join him.
TheWrap has learned that Kroll now has in hand a contract that does grant her the added authority she sought, without specifying when the change will occur. That transition is expected to happen after Warner distribution chief Dan Fellman retires. His exit date is not set.
An executive with knowledge of Bewkes' thinking told TheWrap that the Time-Warner chief is keenly aware of the discomfort within Warner that the succession situation has created, and that he expects to reveal his choice by the middle of next year.
Kroll has apparently decided to maintain her career at Warner Bros., whatever the outcome.