Terry Semel was named chairman and co-CEO of Warner Bros. on Wednesday, receiving in title what he has already had in stature: parity with longtime Warner Bros. topper Bob Daly.
In a business where execs scramble to accumulate titles, Daly decided to share his, pro moting his colleague of 13 years. Previously, Daly held the chairman and CEO job solo and Semel was president and chief operating officer.
Barry Meyer, WB executive, veep for the last decade, added the chief operating officer title in the shuffle. The company has eliminated the post of president. The move cementsone of Hollywood’s most successful business pairings. The duo have solidified Warner Bros. as a power both in TV and the motion picture business.
While there is a change in structure, Daly emphasized thereis no change in the way WB will operate. Execs will continue to report to both Daly and Semel, as they always have.
“If you work in this company, everybody knows Terry and I are interchangeable ,” Daly said. “There came a time to formalize the practice.”
Though the two come from different backgrounds — Daly cut his teeth in TV and Semel in movie distribution — they are remarkably close as execs.
For six years, they were neighbors and rode to work together almost daily. The two still try to commute together once a week. They travel together to Time Warner board meetings and make financial presentations to Wall Street execs in tandem.
“He could start a sentence and I could finish it. I could start a sentence and he could finish it,” Daly said. “We’re that in tune with each other.”
In a statement, Semel expressed gratitude for the new title.
“This is a tremendous honor and a remarkably generous acknowledgement,” Semel said.
Daly said much of the motivation for the change came from recalling his days at CBS, when William Paley ran the web and Frank Stanton was always known as his second-in-command.
“Paley never gave Stanton the recognition he deserved,” Daly said.
About two weeks ago, Daly broached the subject with Semel and said he wanted to promote him by the end of the month. After conferring with Time Warner chairman Gerald M. Levin, Daly decided Monday to go ahead with the move.
“It kept gnawing at me,” Daly said. “I kept saying to myself, ‘This has to be acknowledged.’ ”
Last summer, it was unclear if Semel would remain with Warner Bros. Credit Lyonnais, the parent of MGM, asked him to run the beleaguered studio and offered him a chunk of equity as part of the deal.
But Semel stayed with WB, signing a five-year deal (Daily Variety, Aug. 16, 1993). Daly said Semel’s new title was not part of that deal and that it had “no bearing” on Semel’s compensation.
Semel has worked for Warner Bros. for his entire motion picture career. He began his climb up the corporate ladder in 1975, when he was named president and general sales manager of Warner Bros. Distributing Co. Three years later, he was promoted to executive veepee and chief operating officer of Warner Bros. Inc.
In 1981, Semel was named vice chairman and chief operating officer and a year later became president and chief operating officer. He serves on a number of boards including Revlon Inc., a company controlled by his friend, financier Ronald Perelman.