HBO CEO Bill Nelson retiring, Richard Plepler to succeed him


HBO Chairman and Chief Executive Bill Nelson is retiring after almost 30 years with the pay cable behemoth.

Richard Plepler, currently a co-president of HBO, has been tapped to succeed Nelson as chief executive. Eric Kessler, another co-president, has been promoted to president and chief operating officer. Michael Lombardo, HBO’s president of programming, will also take on additional responsibilities in the corporate restructuring.

Nelson, 63, is a very low-profile executive who made a point of steering clear of the media industry’s bright lights. His background was more on the business than programming side. He started his career at Time Warner in risk management for the Time Inc. publishing unit. Nelson will officially step down at the end of the year.


Time Warner Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes, who ran HBO before Nelson, praised his successor. “He is a world-class CEO and leaves the company well-positioned for the future,” Bewkes said.

“HBO has been my home for almost 30 years, so this decision was an emotional one,” Nelson said in a statement. “I’m proud to say that I feel the company has never been in better shape financially or creatively.”

HBO is one of the most important units of Time Warner Inc., generating more about $1.5 billion in profit for Time Warner Inc.

For Plepler, the promotion to CEO continues his rapid ascension at HBO. He joined HBO in 1992 in corporate communications, quickly became a key advisor to Bewkes and played an influential role that extended into programming, marketing and business affairs. He became an HBO co-president in 2007 after Nelson became CEO.

Kessler, who has been with HBO for more than 25 years, was instrumental in the development of HBO Go, the network’s new online platform that has become very popular. Kessler also has a strong marketing background and oversaw the creation of HBO’s classic “It’s Not TV. It’s HBO” campaign.

Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.