It has taken Time Warner Inc. Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes almost six years, but he has finally assembled his own team atop the key units of Time Warner.
At HBO, Bewkes protege Richard Plepler, 54, was the obvious choice to succeed Bill Nelson, who retired as chairman and chief executive at the end of 2012. Plepler joined HBO in 1992 in corporate communications and rose up the ranks to become one of Bewkes' top lieutenants.
An aide to former Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) in the early 1980s before forming his own strategic consulting firm, Plepler has forged strong relations with both the Hollywood production community and New York's intellectual elite. But schmoozing is far from Plepler's only skill. Morgan Stanley projects HBO's 2013 revenue will top $5 billion, with profit of nearly $1.9 billion.
At Warner Bros., Kevin Tsujihara, 49, had to endure a lengthy corporate beauty contest to succeed Barry Meyer as head of the studio and has since restructured the unit in the wake of the departures of TV chief Bruce Rosenblum and movie head Jeff Robinov — the two executives he beat out.
Many Hollywood insiders saw Tsujihara as a long shot for the top job because he toiled in the less glamorous world of home entertainment and emerging technologies. But that turned out to be a big selling point for Bewkes. Figuring out how to navigate new platforms and create new revenue streams without cannibalizing the current models will be a top priority for Time Warner in the years ahead.
Tsujihara's low-key personality and quick wit were also seen by Bewkes as a better fit for the studio going forward.
Plepler and Tsujihara both spent years at their respective units learning the ropes before assuming senior roles. But John Martin, Bewkes' choice to take over as chief executive of Turner Broadcasting next year from the departing Phil Kent, will have a learning curve.
Currently chief financial officer of Time Warner, Martin, 46, has spent most of his time at the company in bean-counting positions. Although he knows all the finances of Turner, he's never held an operating role. Now he'll have the final say on CNN, TNT, TBS and all the other Turner networks.
Unlike his Atlanta-based predecessor, Martin will stay in New York, another step in the migration of Turner out of the South. Other senior executives, including new CNN chief Jeff Zucker and Turner President David Levy, are already based in New York.
Martin, a martial arts fanatic, may need those skill to take on distributors who will be reluctant to pay much more for the Turner networks. If he's successful and can help boost CNN's ratings, Martin could become the leading candidate to succeed Bewkes, whose contract expires in 2017.