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.