Turner Shuffle: John Martin to Succeed Phil Kent as CEO in January

Phil Kent John Martin Turner

Kent to remain chairman during transition period next year

After a dozen years at the helm, Phil Kent will step down from his post as CEO of Turner Broadcasting in January and will be succeeded by Time Warner chief financial and administrative officer John Martin.

Kent will remain chairman of TBS for a period in 2014. Change was announced Wednesday morning in a memo to Turner staffers.

Kent said he had been mulling the decision to step down for some time, but the final agreement came together a few weeks ago during a long conversation over breakfast with Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes as they discussed the prospect of a new long-term contract for Kent.

Kent joked that he reminded Bewkes that he had been CEO of Turner Broadcasting longer than Bewkes has been at the helm of Time Warner.

“Eleven years is a long time,” Kent told Variety. “We decided it was a good time to engineer a generational shift at Turner Broadcasting.”

For Martin, the appointment marks a a big promotion to overseeing an operating division, one of the pillars of Time Warner that encompasses cablers TNT, TBS, TCM, Cartoon Network, TruTV and a growing portfolio of international channels.

Bewkes called Martin “one of the most capable and strategically-minded executives I know.”

During Kent’s tenure, flagship cablers TNT and TBS have turned into original programming juggernauts, and Time Warner’s investment in the cablers has expanded with sports rights (NBA, Major League Baseball, NCAA basketball). The Turner nets made a statement in 2008 by boldly scheduling its upfront presentation during the same week as the major broadcast networks — a first for a cable group.

In 2012, Kent recruited Gerhard Zeiler, former head of German powerhouse RTL Group and one of Europe’s most prominent media execs, as head of TBS Intl., and former NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Zucker to run CNN.

Kent has been with Turner org since 1993. He was previously prexy of the Turner Home Entertainment unit and head of TBS International, where he helped expand the worldwide reach of CNN and other Turner nets. He headed the CNN News Group from 2000-2001. He briefly left the Turner fold but returned in February 2003 as head of TBS, succeeding Jamie Kellner.

Before TBS, Kent was a television packaging agent at CAA. He began his career in syndication, launching the entertainment wing of John Blair and Co.

Kent gave no specific indication of his future plans other than to say: “It’s time for me to do some different things on a different level.” Kent said expects to remain chairman for eight to 10 months of next year, depending on Martin’s needs during the transition.

“The company is home to some of the best brands in media and is known for its innovative culture and focus on delivering programming that audiences love and count on,” Martin said.

Martin has been Time Warner ‘s CFO since 2008, following the conglom’s spinoff of Time Warner Cable. He had served as CFO of Time Warner Cable and before that worked in various financial posts at Time Warner including head of investor relations.

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  1. If this were a Warner Bros. movie this would be the montage moment when people are looking to rebuild after a big setback. I’m thinking “The Logical Song” by Supertramp. You guys rock! I mean it. I watch TBS’ repeats of The Big Bang Theory regularly and its amazing to me how your original programming fit in so seamlessly yet not considering you’re all part of WB together. Its like in the old days when watching Saturday Morning Cartoons on CBS and Fox for at least a year were almost the same thing in how the cartoons looked so similar. Its easy to see why since they were partners with one another until the early 1990’s. All NBC did was take Disney’s castoff Good Morning Miss Bliss and retool it as Saved By The Bell to have something themselves. Here’s what I want: When John Martin comes in I want to know and see if he can’t buddy up with Michael Wright to help create magic together. The reason I say this is because my last name is Wright and having observed both my parents and myself with my neighbors and friends named Martin when I was a child, and hearing at least of my father when he was a boy, the chemistry together was endless. Like with Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer. Oh, but I am serious. See, the thing in my mind is that you have to find what works for you in order for the pistons of a revved up V-8 engine to be firing on all cylinders. If something gets in the way of that, you get a nerd or homeboy throwing a monkey wrench into people’s plans only to fail miserably in jumping off themselves, then sure you’ll have the plot of Are We Done Yet? or any particular episode of The Big Bang Theory where Penny has to play hero but now see heres the sticking point: how are you going to be able to show anything at all if there is Jeff Zucker-type chaos in the control room like during the WGA writer’s strike? You won’t be able to. Which is how the big Boss Hogg types up in their Bush-era politics bought penthouses would like it between now until the returning veterans all come home, and Obama makes his end of the wars speech, to kick them out of the veterans’ wives’ bedroom. Like on Gilmore Girls when Luke punched Christopher for spending the night with Lorelai. So going in everyone has got to look at it like The Simpsons kids calling up Moe’s Tavern or somehow getting into mischief together. I mean if you want to expand then I got three words for you: TNA Impact Wrestling. Yes, they do great at Spike TV now but before them the WWE went there and wasn’t quite getting up the same numbers it did now coming back on USA Network. Hogan was the biggest draw that pro wrestling had ever seen the entire TIME that he was on TBS’ World Championship Wrestling. It wasn’t like oh lets watch Hulk Hogan for a minute then leave. No, brother. The guy had the brains to pick all the older stars he was in territories with for big daddy Ted Turner to cherry pick and bring over. Only this time, Jack its not going to be that Turner will have some pie in the sky numbers that people will have thrown their way only to get heartbroken. No! This time, if you bring them over the company will already be owned like it was by Crockett when the NWA was giving the WWE a run for its money every friggin’ NIGHT that they each had a house show, dude! Which was back when? When I was a kid in the 80’s living next door to my neighbors. WHAT YOU GONNA DO, TIME-WARNER WHEN THE MOST SUCCESSFUL STARS OF PRO WRESTLING COME BACK TO HELP REDEEM AND VALIDATE YOU?! *snarls and grunts*

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