eric kessler HBO Leaves
Larry Busacca/WireImage

Execs was at HBO for 27 years

HBO COO Eric Kessler is leaving the company, the network announced Friday.

His position is being eliminated. All executives who reported to Kessler, who was at HBO for 27 years,  are now reporting to CEO Richard Plepler, who characterized the elimination of the role in an internal memo distributed around HBO as one that “does not best serve the most effective management process.”

“It is important to say that this in no way reflects on the extraordinary talents that Eric has so ably demonstrated in his 27 years at HBO,” said Plepler in the memo. “His accomplishments have helped shape the company throughout its modern history.”

The departure marks the second big exit in the executive ranks in recent weeks. HBO Entertainment president Sue Naegle  segued into a production deal on Sept. 23.

With Kessler gone, HBO loses one of the most influential execs the company has had in its history. He led the net’s digital strategy, including the successful launch of HBO Go. His other responsibilities include finance, affiliate sales, marketing,  international channels, program licensing, DVD sales, technology operations and IT.

When Kessler served as exec VP of marketing from 1995-2002, the net came up with the slogan “It’s Not TV. It’s HBO.”

Kessler moved into the COO role last September when he was serving as co-president with Plepler, who was bumped up to the CEO role, replacing Bill Nelson. That management restructuring, engineered by Time Warner chairman Jeff Bewkes, also saw the elevation of Michael Lombardo to president of programming.

It is not known whether Kessler has a new gig lined up, though given his credentials and digital savvy, it would not be surprising to see him resurface elsewhere in a high-profile role in the media or technology sectors.

Here’s the memo Plepler just released internally:

It is with mixed emotions that I announce that Eric Kessler will be leaving HBO.  After careful consideration we have decided that the COO position does not best serve the most effective management process at HBO.

It is important to say that this in no way reflects on the extraordinary talents that Eric has so ably demonstrated in his 27 years at HBO.  His accomplishments have helped shape the company throughout its modern history.   Eric has been an uncommonly valued colleague and friend to all of us at HBO. While his many contributions could not adequately be reflected here, they are indeed numerous and lasting – in fact, we are currently completing one of our strongest years ever. Eric launched several iconic marketing and advertising campaigns – most notably the award winning “It’s Not TV. It’s HBO” – and his influence is visible on screen through HBO’s lauded on-air promotional efforts.   Since 2007, Eric has overseen the distribution of the HBO and Cinemax networks in both domestic and international markets. In addition to the pay television channels, he oversaw the worldwide sale of HBO’s programming through licensing, DVD and digital distribution. 

Eric was an early champion of our digital future – he was central in establishing our relationship with iTunes (Apple), driving the exploration of mobile experiences, and ultimately leading the development and worldwide launch of HBO GO. HBO GO is an essential innovation for HBO and without Eric and his team, it would not have emerged as what is widely regarded as television’s most elegant digital product. 

Eric’s grace and professionalism are a tribute to his passion and commitment to HBO. He has agreed to work with us during a transition period to ensure continuity.  During this period, Rob Roth, Otto Berkes, Shelley Brindle, Pam Levine and Simon Sutton will report to me.

Words are insufficient to express our gratitude, appreciation and respect for a beloved colleague.  It is indisputable that he will immediately be inducted into the HBO Hall of Fame.

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