Time Warner Extends Jeff Bewkes' Contract
AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau, File

Jeff Bewkes will remain at the helm of Time Warner as chairman and CEO through 2020 under a three-year contract extension announced Thursday.

“Since becoming CEO, Jeff has transformed the company to focus on video content, capitalized on the combined strength of Turner, HBO and Warner Bros., and delivered consistently strong operating and financial performance,” said Time Warner board member Stephen Bollenbach in announcing the extension.

Bewkes has been CEO since 2008 and is known for his affability and dry sense of humor, as well as for his penchant for spinning off businesses and streamlining the media company he leads. By pushing aside AOL, the publishing division, and the cable systems, Bewkes has argued he has enabled Time Warner to emerge as a nimbler and more focused player, one that is better able to profit on the movies and television shows that the company creates. But it has also left Time Warner more open to overtures from would-be buyers. In 2014, Bewkes had to fend off an unsolicited takeover attempt by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.

At Time Warner, Bewkes has pushed for TV everywhere, a buzzy term for streaming, on-demand services that allow customers to access programming across multiple devices, seeing it as a key way to cater to shifting entertainment consumption habits. He’s also shown a willingness to thrust and parry with new media upstarts, once likening Netflix and its ambitions to revolutionize the media space to the the Albanian army taking over the world.

In a statement accompanying the announcement of the extension, the company noted that shares have increased 162% in value during Bewkes’ seven-year tenure. Like many media companies, Time Warner’s stock took a drubbing last summer as investor concerns about the long-term health of the media sector led to a sell-off. Shares, which had been trading at above $90 in mid-July, closed Thursday at $70.20.

Bewkes’ contract extension comes as the leadership at many of his major rivals is in flux. Murdoch recently elevated his sons, Lachlan and James, to top executive roles at Fox, while the age and health struggles of Sumner Redstone is expected to eventually trigger changes at Viacom and CBS, the two companies his family trust controls. It also takes his time at the helm past that of Walt Disney Company chief Bob Iger, whose last extension has him remaining atop the entertainment conglomerate through 2018.

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