Warner Bros.' three-way race bought time but couldn't avoid messy ending
So with official confirmation that Bruce Rosenblum is leaving Warner Bros., it would be fascinating to hear someone – like, say, Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes – explain why the three-man “bake-off” to succeed Barry Meyer was a good idea.
Granted, the rationale behind creating an office of the president consisting of Rosenblum, film chief Jeff Robinov and digital mastermind Kevin Tsujihara (who ultimately landed the top job) was obvious. Buy the company time and relative harmony, while creating healthy competition in the jockeying to replace Meyer as head of the studio.
But the jockeying wasn’t healthy; it was toxic and divisive. And as time dragged on and speculation grew, it became increasingly clear the structure virtually ensured whoever didn’t get the nod for Meyer’s post would appear to have been very conspicuously passed over, creating pressure on them to move on.
Nobody reaches the level Rosenblum has without ambition, and it’s hardly a surprise he’d perceive the choice as a slap, especially given the prominence of TV as a driver to Warner Bros.’ profits. And while the studio can boast seasoned execs beneath him – many of whom will receive promotions in the wake of his departure – we’ll never know if the whole situation might have had a different outcome had Bewkes bitten the bullet and made a decision way back when, skipping the whole “Survivor”-like elimination game.
As a footnote, Rosenblum remains chairman of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, and while he’s certain to land elsewhere, for now he joins former Tribune Entertainment chief Dick Askin in leaving a highly placed exec job while serving in that voluntary capacity. The academy has often struggled to attract top industry leaders to participate, and if this trend keeps up, the task might get that much harder.
Admittedly, sometimes there’s no way to make everyone happy or prevent losing senior managers who felt dissed once Meyer’s retirement date rolled around. Nobody wants to be seen as the fourth guy who always disappears in “The Hangover” movies.
It’s possible, in other words, the result wouldn’t have turned out differently – or the ending any less messy – had Time Warner approached the process better. What does appear clear, with the benefit of hindsight, is Time Warner management couldn’t have handled the whole situation much worse.