Warner Bros.’ Tsujihara begins changes; six executives promoted

Warner Bros. Chief Executive Kevin Tsujihara has begun building his own team at the Burbank entertainment company, distributing power among a handful of key executives who have long toiled in the trenches.

On Wednesday, Tsujihara announced a new management structure for the company’s television, home entertainment and video games unit.

“This is all about redesigning the company and how we do what we do,” Tsujihara said in an interview with The Times. “One of the key goals we want to accomplish is running this company as one. We all work for Warner Bros.”


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Tsujihara elevated longtime TV studio chief Peter Roth, international TV distribution head Jeffrey Schlesinger and TV business affairs executive Craig Hunegs to manage Hollywood’s leading TV production studio, which churns out such popular shows as “The Big Bang Theory,” “The Mentalist” and “The Middle.”

Tsujihara also consolidated much of the digital distribution duties, an emerging area of importance, into one group. He named Thomas Gewecke as chief digital officer for Warner Bros. Entertainment.

The management overhaul followed the resignation of the studio’s respected television president, Bruce Rosenblum, who had been with Warner Bros. for nearly 25 years. Rosenblum had been in the running for the CEO job, to succeed outgoing chairman Barry Meyer, during a tense two-and-a-half-year corporate bake-off, but he ultimately lost the competition earlier this year to Tsujihara.

Tsujihara said he had “mixed emotions” about Rosenblum exiting the company.

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“Bruce has been a friend and a colleague of mine for many years, and his contributions to this company -- and to the industry -- should not be glossed over in all of this,” Tsujihara said.

No outside executives were hired. Instead, Tsujihara promoted from within.

“The strength of Warner Bros. has always been its people,” Tsujihara said. “We have a super talented bench.”

Roth, who is fondly known by Hollywood’s producers and agents as “Huggy Bear” because of his trademark bear-hug greetings, has served as president of the Warner Bros. Television studio since March 1999.

Now Roth becomes president and chief content officer for Warner Bros. Television Group. He remains president of Warner Bros. Television and will be given oversight of Telepictures Productions, which produces “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “Extra” and “TMZ.”

Roth is largely credited with building Warner Bros. into a hit-making TV machine and strengthening the studio’s relationships with some of television’s most successful producers, including Chuck Lorre, who created “Big Bang Theory,” “Mike & Molly” and “Two and a Half Men”; J.J. Abrams, responsible for “Revolution”; and John Wells, who produced “ER,” “West Wing” and “Southland.”

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“Peter loves the creative aspects of the business, and he is at the top of his game,” Tsujihara said.

Schlesinger becomes president of Warner Bros. Worldwide Television Distribution. He will be in charge of all sales of television shows both domestically and worldwide. Schlesinger also will handle sales of Warner Bros. movies and television reruns to U.S. broadcast and cable channels and video-on-demand platforms.

Hunegs was promoted to president of business and strategy for the Warner Bros. Television Group. Hunegs had long been Rosenblum’s chief deputy, but now he -- along with Roth and Schlesinger -- will report to Tsujihara.

Gewecke, who previously served as president of digital distribution, picked up some of Tsujihara’s previous duties. Gewecke will be point man for one of the most challenging aspects of the studio’s business strategy: how to position the company for success as digital distribution threatens to ravage Hollywood’s business model.

Gewecke will coordinate the studio’s various digital strategies and manage the company’s home entertainment, direct-to-consumer and Flixster groups.

Ron Sanders, formerly president of Warner Home Video, will become president of Warner Bros. Worldwide Home Entertainment Distribution. His portfolio was expanded to include global digital transaction business -- video on demand and electronic sell-through. He was also charged with expanding the retail distribution of DC Entertainment products.

Diane Nelson remains president of DC Entertainment, which will continue to operate as a stand-alone entity within the studio. She picks up new responsibilities in the development and production of video games.

Wednesday’s announcement also was noteworthy because Tsujihara left intact the management at the company’s prominent movie studio. Like Rosenblum, Jeff Robinov, the movie chief, had been jockeying for the top job, and was thought by some to be on shaky ground after he failed to get it.

But it is “business as usual” at the movie studio, Tsujihara said. “We are going to have an incredible summer and year and right now we are entirely focused on getting our summer releases launched right.”


Power struggle at Warner Bros.

Bruce Rosenblum exiting Warner Bros.

Warner Bros. names Kevin Tsujihara as chief executive