Turner President David Levy — who worked as an ad executive during Ted Turner’s days and went on to help shape the cable channels’ embrace of professional sports — is stepping down in the wake of AT&T’s takeover.
Levy, who has been with Turner nearly 33 years, announced his departure Friday in a note to his staff. Since last summer, he was the top executive overseeing the business side of CNN, TBS, TNT and Cartoon Network. Levy was instrumental in Turner’s partnerships with the NBA and Major League Baseball.
“I have decided the time is right to leave my role,” Levy said in an internal memo. “I am ready for a professional change. It is hard to believe but I joined Turner back in 1986 and I have spent more than half my life at this great company.”
Levy’s exit had been foreshadowed. On Thursday, HBO Chairman and Chief Executive Richard Plepler announced that he was leaving after 27 years with the premium channel. Both Plepler and Levy reported to John Stankey, an AT&T executive who took charge of the Time Warner properties upon the close of AT&T’s $85-billion purchase of the company, which AT&T renamed WarnerMedia.
This week’s shake-ups come in advance of a wider Stankey-led restructuring. Former NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt is expected to take over HBO and the Turner entertainment channels as early as next week. Greenblatt has spent time with Stankey over the last few months, and talks to bring him to AT&T accelerated several weeks ago, according to two knowledgeable people who were not authorized to comment and requested anonymity.
AT&T had been handcuffed to make changes until now because the U.S. Justice Department had challenged its takeover of Time Warner in court. But on Tuesday, a federal appeals court ruled the merger was legal, and after 15 months of fighting, the Justice Department conceded defeat.
WarnerMedia executives, rattled by this week’s announcements, privately say they are bracing for more job losses as Stankey moves to rapidly streamline the company. The company also is gearing up for the launch of a streaming service later this year that will be intended to compete with Netflix, Amazon.com, Hulu and a service Walt Disney Co. plans to launch. Greenblatt is expected to oversee the streaming service.
The mass exit of top executives is similar to AT&T’s purge of senior DirecTV executives after the Dallas telecommunications giant’s takeover of that business in 2015. Stankey also ran DirecTV, based in El Segundo, after AT&T purchased the satellite TV giant.
Now, at least six top Time Warner executives have departed since the AT&T deal. In addition to Plepler and Levy, the list includes John Martin (Turner chairman), Jeff Bewkes (Time Warner CEO), Gary Ginsberg (executive vice president) and Howard Averill (chief financial officer).
Kevin Tsujihara is the only Time Warner division head to remain in the job. He serves as chairman of the Burbank-based film and television studio Warner Bros. Other prominent executives still in their jobs include CNN President Jeff Zucker, HBO programming President Casey Bloys, TBS/TNT President Kevin Reilly, who was recently named content chief for the streaming service, and Keith Cocozza, head of corporate communications.