Hulu’s Executive Exodus Accelerates

Internet TV venture increasingly struggling as site's sales process drags on

As the Hulu sales process drags on, the Internet TV venture increasingly is struggling with its best and brightest employees jumping ship amid uncertainty about who their new bosses will be.

Hulu’s job listings pages currently show 97 open positions — and at least 70 of those have been posted in the past two months. According to Hulu, the company’s attrition rates are within normal ranges, and its total headcount is growing, as revenue and subscriber levels continue to increase. Hulu has about 640 employees worldwide, up 30% from a year ago.

Hulu’s search for fresh blood starts at the top: CEO Jason Kilar, who frequently clashed with the company’s owners over strategy, left in March. He was replaced on an interim basis by senior veep of content Andy Forssell.

Chief technology officer Richard Tom, who had been with Hulu since 2007, left shortly afterward. Late last month, the firm lost senior vice president of international Johannes Larcher, who had led the foray into Japan and was scoping out additional overseas plans.

Other recent departures: co-head of content Robert Schildhouse, who joined CBS as senior VP of digital licensing and distribution in March; VP of product Rob Wong, now with ride-sharing app startup Sidecar; head of HR John Foster, who left in January to start a social media company called Gamut; Josh Siegel, principal project manager responsible for all video streaming technology, now VP of product at Cognitive Networks; and Simon Gallagher, director of international strategy and business development, now director of content acquisition at Netflix.

Meanwhile, Kilar and Tom have teamed up to form a stealth technology startup in Los Angeles aimed at the digital living room, according to blog Tech-Crunch. The duo may be trying to lure away the Hulu engineers they originally hired and worked with closely for the past few years.

Despite the uncertainty, Hulu has managed to retain several key managers.

Forssell, a former U.S. Army captain, remains in place as temp CEO, and continues to lead Hulu’s content development and acquisition strategy. Also still onboard are senior VP of advertising JP Colaco and senior VP of marketing and distribution Pete Distad, whose responsibilities include customer acquisition and retention.

Two of the company’s owners, News Corp. and Walt Disney Co., have solicited bids to buy their 33% stakes in Hulu. The third owner, NBCUniversal, is prohibited from exercising management decisions for seven years under the government’s approval of the Comcast takeover of NBCU; however, it is possible for a buyer to acquire the Comcast/NBCU interest as part of a larger deal, according to industry sources.

Oddly, Hulu’s senior personnel are actually rooting for the winning bidder (or bidders) to come in at the low end of the price range. Here’s why: Hulu’s parents renegotiated employee compensation packages when the trio bought out the 10% stake owned by Providence Equity Partners last year. That meant staffers with stock-option grants received cash payouts — and now won’t get any potential upside once News Corp. and Disney sell their equity stakes.

As a result, Hulu execs are crossing their fingers that a new owner will spend less acquiring them so they have capital to invest in the company post-sale. But the loss of equity compensation makes it tougher for Hulu to retain top-flight managers and developers.

Potential buyers engaged in the Hulu auction are said to include Time Warner Cable, DirecTV, Yahoo, Guggenheim Partners and private-equity firms KKR and Silver Lake Partners, the latter of which is pairing up with talent agency WME. In another unusual combo, AT&T is considering making a joint bid with the Chernin Group.

News Corp. and Disney hope to reach agreements on the sale before the end of the summer, according to sources. But for the Hulu crew, the resolution can’t come quickly enough.

Dearly Departed

Jason Kilar CEO

Richard Tom Chief technology officer

Johannes Larcher Senior vice president of international

Robert Schildhouse Co-head of content

Rob Wong VP of product

John Foster Head of HR

Josh Siegel Principal project manager responsible for all video streaming technology

Simon Gallagher Director of international strategy and business development

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • Scooter Braun Congratulates Taylor Swift on

    Scooter Braun Congratulates Taylor Swift on ‘Brilliant’ Album and Campaign

    Two days after Taylor Swift fired off the latest salvo in her battle with Scooter Braun, the manager congratulated the singer on the campaign around her “brilliant” new album, “Lover,” which arrived last night. The message came after Swift said she will be re-recording songs from her first six albums, which are now owned by [...]

  • David Koch Obit

    David Koch, Libertarian Activist and Billionaire Philanthropist, Dies at 79

    David Koch, brother of Charles Koch and one of the owners of Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in the U.S., has died at 79. According to the New York Times, Charles Koch announced the news of his brother’s death in a statement. Though he did not attribute to David’s death to a particular cause, [...]

  • Beverly Hills Realtor Accused of Stealing

    Beverly Hills Realtor Accused of Stealing From Usher, Adam Lambert

    A Beverly Hills real estate agent has been arrested on charges of stealing from the homes of celebrities, including Usher, Adam Lambert and “Real Housewives” star Dorit Kemsley. Jason Emil Yaselli, 32, is accused of encouraging an accomplice, Benjamin Ackerman, to enter homes during open houses in order to steal from them. Ackerman allegedly sold [...]

  • Pod Save America Hosts on Trump

    'Pod Save America' Hosts on Trump, the Democratic Primary and What's Wrong With Cable News

    Like many Democrats, Tanya Somanader was blindsided by the 2016 presidential election. A veteran of the Obama White House and a former speechwriter and digital specialist for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Somanader was gearing up for a Hillary Clinton administration. Instead, she had to grapple with the reality of a Donald Trump presidency. “A lot [...]

  • Ann Sarnoff Warner Bros

    Ann Sarnoff Formally Takes Reins of Warner Bros. as CEO

    The Ann Sarnoff era at Warner Bros. has begun. Sarnoff formally took the reins as Warner Bros. chair-CEO on Thursday, two months after she was appointed to the post. Sarnoff told employees in a memo that she has been impressed by the company’s track record during the past year amid a period of upheaval for [...]

  • Former movie producer Harvey Weinstein (L)

    Harvey Weinstein to Be Arraigned on New Indictment

    Harvey Weinstein is set to appear in court on Monday for an arraignment on a new indictment, the Manhattan D.A.’s office said Thursday. Prosecutors announced last week that they would seek a fresh indictment, which would allow actress Annabella Sciorra to testify at Weinstein’s trial. The move came after Justice James Burke ruled on Aug. [...]

  • AI Technology David Beckham

    How AI Tech Is Changing Dubbing, Making Stars Like David Beckham Multilingual

    David Beckham does not speak Arabic, Hindi or Mandarin. But when the soccer legend starred in a PSA for malaria awareness this spring, he effortlessly switched among these and six other languages, thanks to cutting-edge technology that could soon change how Hollywood localizes its movies and TV shows. The PSA in question was produced with technology [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content