When WarnerMedia dropped the shocking news on Monday that Chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara would be stepping down, one name was on everyone’s lips: Stacey Snider.
The timing is almost uncanny. Snider, a well-liked and respected executive, has run Universal Pictures, DreamWorks and is currently Chairman and CEO at 20th Century Fox. Plus, she is about to be out of a job when the merger with Disney is completed this week.
Multiple insiders told TheWrap that Snider is the most obvious candidate outside of Warner Bros to take over the leadership position. In October, it was reported she would not join Disney. And she’s a female executive in the age of #MeToo.
“[Stacey] makes complete sense. It’s just obvious. It’s too perfect,” said one veteran industry executive, echoing the sentiments of others.
“I do think Stacey would be a good choice, or perhaps someone from the outside who brings a fresh point of view on the big picture and all the new and evolving businesses out there,” said another industry executive.
Snider’s lame duck status has been a topic of board rooms and studio watering holes since late last year, when it was clear that Disney was not offering her a position. At TheWrap’s Grill event in October, industry analyst Roy Salter said Snider could write her own ticket. “Stacey knows how to manage content such as to facilitate positive social impact for the world,” he told TheWrap. “In the upcoming changes within media and entertainment, that type of professional has limitless opportunity.”
But that also requires a rare opening in the leadership positions of Hollywood’s major companies.
A spokesperson for WarnerMedia declined to comment past the company’s statement that interim leadership would be announced on Tuesday. Snider declined to comment to TheWrap.
If Snider were interested in the job, she has one powerful executive on her side. Peter Chernin, whose Otter Media was funded and then bought outright by AT&T last year, is a trusted adviser to WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey and has a deal on the Fox lot overseen by Snider.
Said one of the veteran executives, “Peter Chernin is a very powerful guy and he has a lot of sway with the guys over there at AT&T.”
AT&T completed its $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, making the two companies into WarnerMedia.
When they were at Fox, Snider would bring in Chernin’s company to produce and work on films — he knows that if he gets her into Warner Bros., that Chernin Entertainment will have opportunities, according to the executive.
A spokesperson for Chernin told TheWrap that he was not involved in WarnerMedia plans to replace Tsujihara.
However, another insider told TheWrap that the studio would have to get stabilized before a female executive comes on board. That leaves room for Toby Emmerich, Chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, to ascend — at least temporarily.
The decision for Tsujihara to step down came over the weekend. In a memo on Monday, Stankey told employees that an “interim leadership structure” would be announced on Tuesday.
Two industry insiders said they don’t foresee Emmerich stepping into the role for good.
“It would be hard to do,” he said. “He is such a creative and he’d have to give a lot of that up to handle home entertainment, the business side and whatever else Kevin was doing. Don’t know if it’s the right move, but I think he could definitely do it.”
Former chairperson of Sony Pictures Entertainment Amy Pascal would also be a candidate to take over the post, although she has formed her own company, Pascal Pictures, and is still serving as a producer on Sony films like “Spider-Man: Far From Home” and Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women.”
Tsujihara, who has worked for two decades at the studio and served as chairman for the last six years, has denied any wrongdoing connected to his past intimate relationship with actress Charlotte Kirk. On March 8, after The Hollywood Reporter published texts between the two that indicated she sought his help in obtaining acting jobs while, he wrote a memo to staff in which he said he deeply regretted “mistakes.”
When Disney announced it would acquire Fox, it became clear that Snider would not be making the move. Last fall TheWrap wrote about potential landing spots for the executive who has taken successful risks on films such as “Deadpool,” “Hidden Figures” and “The Greatest Showman.” Insiders told TheWrap in October she’d be looking to work at another big studio, but nothing was out there — until now.
“Her first thought is always going to be to work at a studio,” one studio executive told TheWrap at the time. “I’m sure she’ll want to wait for a studio, I just don’t know what’s out there.”