Kevin Tsujihara, head of Warner Bros. home entertainment division, has been named the new CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment, beating out TV chief Bruce Rosenblum and movie head Jeff Robinov.
Tension has been high at Warner Bros. for more than a year, since Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes made it known that he would choose a chief executive for the movie and television studio from among the three co-presidents.
Bewkes named Tsujihara one part of a triumvirate titled “Office of the President” when he renewed chairman Barry Meyer’s contract in 2010. Alan Horn left the studio, creating a three-man race to succeed Meyer when his contract ends this year.
“Kevin is one of the most effective and respected executives within Time Warner, and the right leader to ensure Warner Bros,’ preeminence into the future," Bewkes said. "He brings the perfect combination of strategic thinking, financial discipline, digital vision, and management style to build on Warner Bros.’ track record of success under Barry Meyer.”
“It is an honor to have the opportunity to lead this storied business," Tsujihara said. "We’re at a pivotal moment in the histories of Hollywood and entertainment: technology is changing the canvas we use to create theatrical releases; home entertainment is rapidly evolving; and the definition of television now includes viewing across a wide range of devices and services. But in my mind one thing remains clear and constant: Warner Bros.’ unmatched ability to tell stories that inspire, educate, and entertain global audiences."
Tjusihara has run the home entertainment division since its founding in 2005. In that time, he has tried to offset declining DVD revenues by acquiring Flixster, a social movie site where users share movie ratings, and helping to launch UltraViolet, the industry-backed cloud-based movie ownership system.
The home entertainment division includes the studio’s home video, digital distribution, videogames, anti-piracy and emerging technology operations.
Bewkes and Meyer, who has been CEO since 1999, announced Monday that Tsujihara will take over the job March 1. His appointment is not a surprise, although many thought the ambitious Rosenblum had the edge on the job.
Rosenblum issued a unusual statement expressing his disappointment at not getting the job: “Obviously, I'm disappointed; who wouldn't be?" he said in the statement. "Warner Bros. is a unique and special place and I know it will be in good hands with Kevin at the helm. I continue to be proud of our accomplishments and I have the most respect and admiration for our amazing team at the studio – a team that is thriving in an ever-transforming business."
Robinov said in a statement he was "truly happy and proud of Kevin."
"We are both good friends and colleagues and I think he's an excellent choice for the job. The company will be in great shape under his leadership," he said.
In choosing Tsujihara over Rosenblum and Robinov, Bewkes made a clear statement that he believes the future success of the entertainment studio lies in the hands of a leader who is deeply engaged in the digital transformation of the industry.
The UltraViolet initiative has had mixed success since its launch. The Flixster acquisition is considered a success. But other intiatives led by Tsujihara have had less success, including his embrace of high definition DVD while other studios were championing Blu-Ray, and his support for premium DVD, which has yielded little for the studio.
Here is the full news release from Time Warner:
Time Warner Inc. Chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes and Warner Bros. Chairman and CEO Barry Meyer today announced that Kevin Tsujihara will become the next Chief Executive Officer of Warner Bros. Entertainment. Mr. Tsujihara will become CEO beginning March 1, 2013, succeeding Mr. Meyer, who will remain as Chairman through 2013.
In making the announcement Mr. Bewkes said, “Kevin is one of the most effective and respected executives within Time Warner, and the right leader to ensure Warner Bros.’ preeminence into the future. He brings the perfect combination of strategic thinking, financial discipline, digital vision, and management style to build on Warner Bros.’ track record of success under Barry Meyer.”
Mr. Meyer added, “In working with Kevin for nearly 20 years, I’ve come to know and value a talented executive with a passion for this company and its people. He has skillfully guided one of the most complex businesses at Warner Bros. during a time of transition in the home entertainment sector, and has a deep appreciation and respect for the films and TV shows we create. Kevin has a rare combination of extraordinary business acumen and a love for the art of storytelling, and I’m confident he will be a great leader for Warner Bros.”
Over the next several months, Mr. Meyer and Mr. Tsujihara will work together with other members of Warner Bros. senior executive team, including Warner Bros. Television President Bruce Rosenblum and Warner Bros. Pictures President Jeff Robinov, to ensure an orderly transition.
As President of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group since 2005, Mr. Tsujihara currently oversees the company’s home video, digital distribution, videogames, anti-piracy, and emerging technology operations.
Mr. Tsujihara said, “It is an honor to have the opportunity to lead this storied business. We’re at a pivotal moment in the histories of Hollywood and entertainment: technology is changing the canvas we use to create theatrical releases; home entertainment is rapidly evolving; and the definition of television now includes viewing across a wide range of devices and services. But in my mind one thing remains clear and constant: Warner Bros.’ unmatched ability to tell stories that inspire, educate, and entertain global audiences. We are extremely fortunate to have strong relationships with some of the industry’s most gifted talent and together we will continue to use those relationships, our scale, and our passion to build on Warner Bros. great legacy.”
Mr. Tsujihara joined Warner Bros. in 1994 as Director, Special Projects, Finance to assist in the management of the company’s interest in Six Flags. Across his nearly two decades with the company he has served as Executive Vice President, Corporate Business Development & Strategy, Warner Bros. Entertainment and, Executive Vice President, New Media, responsible for the oversight of all Warner Bros.’ new media endeavors.
Mr. Tsujihara received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Southern California and his MBA from Stanford University. He sits on the Board of Directors for the MPAA, City Year Los Angeles, an education focused, nonprofit organization, the Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment Commission, Kabam, the Verdugo Hills Hospital Foundation, and the Entertainment Software Association.
Lucas Shaw contributed to this report.