Turner shake-up could lead to bruised egos and more exits

If recent history is any guide, there may be an exodus of top executives at Turner Broadcasting in the wake of a shake-up there.

Time Warner said Wednesday that Phil Kent would step down at the end of the year as chief executive of Turner Broadcasting, the parent of powerful cable networks CNN, TNT, TBS and Cartoon.

Replacing Kent is John Martin, currently the chief financial officer of Turner parent Time Warner Inc. Unlike Kent, Martin will not be based at Turner’s Atlanta headquarters but instead will remain primarily in New York.


When Time Warner put in a new management team at Warner Bros. and named home entertainment executive Kevin Tsujihara the successor to longtime chief executive Barry Meyer, it led to the exits of two other top Warner Bros. executives – television head Bruce Rosenblum and movie chief Jeff Robinov.

At Turner, among those that may have bruised egos about Martin getting the Kent job are David Levy, a Turner president who oversees sports, advertising sales and distribution for the cable unit; and Kelly Regal, an executive vice president of Turner Broadcasting who worked closely with Kent and handled much of the backroom operations at the unit.

Levy could end up getting some additional turf or an enhanced title to appease him, a company insider said. Regal’s future is more uncertain.

Other top Turner executives that were potential candidates for Kent’s job include Turner Entertainment President Steve Koonin and CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker, a former chief executive of NBCUniversal.

However, Zucker only recently took the job at CNN and could still be positioned for a bigger role down the road, especially if Martin ends up eventually succeeding Time Warner Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes. Koonin, who has oversight over programming for all of Turner’s cable channels except for CNN and HLN, enjoys focusing his efforts on content and marketing.


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Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.