WarnerMedia is launching an investigation into allegations that Warner Bros. Entertainment chief Kevin Tsujihara had an affair with an actress and subsequently tried to help her land roles in Warner Bros.’ productions.
The studio’s parent company was forced to act after the Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday published a lengthy report detailing the history between Tsujihara and British actress Charlotte Kirk. The studio previously investigated the allegations in the fall of 2017 and found no wrongdoing or abuse of power by Tsujihara, who is married.
Tsujihara and Kirk met in 2013 through a mutual acquaintance, Australian media mogul James Packer. At the time Packer and director-producer Ratner were negotiating a $450 million film financing pact with Warner Bros. through their RatPac investment venture.
Kirk issued a statement to the trade paper denying that there was any “inappropriate behavior” on the part of Tsujihara or Packer, and she asserted “Kevin never promised me anything.” However, text messages included in the report indicate Kirk later accused Ratner and Packer of using her with Tsujihara to help close the RatPac deal.
A WarnerMedia spokesman emphasized that Kirk has made no claims against Tsujihara or the studio. A source close to the situation said that Tsujihara first brought the issue to the attention of his bosses at Time Warner out of concern about Kirk’s behavior after the alleged sexual relationship ended. Warner Bros. and Time Warner investigated the situation but took no action against the Warner Bros. chief. Tsujihara’s behavior and his stewardship of Warner Bros. was scrutinized again when AT&T acquired the media giant last year.
“Through her spokesperson, the actress has publicly denied any impropriety in her casting, and our prior investigation did not find otherwise,” the WarnerMedia rep said. “Whenever we receive new allegations, it is our standard practice to conduct an appropriate investigation. And that is what we will do here.” Tsujihara attorney Bert Deixler also stated: “Mr. Tsujihara had no direct role in the hiring of this actress.”
Tsujihara will remain in his role as Warner Bros. CEO while the new investigation is conducted, the WarnerMedia rep said.
The expose in the Reporter includes images of text messages allegedly exchanged between Tsujihara and Kirk in which she pushes him to help her make connections that could lead to acting work. Tsujihara reportedly helped Kirk connect with New Line Cinema president Richard Brener but there are no indications that Tsujihara forced anyone at Warner Bros. to cast Kirk in a project.
Rumors of questionable behavior have dogged Tsujihara for more a year, since the #MeToo movement gained steam with the revelations about sexual assault allegations against former Weinstein Co. leader Harvey Weinstein. Tsujihara’s reputation was tarnished by his association with Brett Ratner, the director and film financier who has also been accused of sexual harassment and misconduct by multiple women — allegations he has denied. Warner Bros. severed ties with Ratner in November 2017 on the heels of a Los Angeles Times report detailing disturbing allegations from multiple women.
Brett Ratner’s attorney Martin Singer responded to the story in a statement, saing “Brett Ratner did nothing wrong and had the best intentions. While he offered to help get Ms. Kirk a limited number of auditions, he consistently told her that she would have to earn any job herself.”
The Hollywood Reporter report comes two days after Tsujihara was given a big boost in responsibilities as part of AT&T’s restructuring of WarnerMedia operations. Warner Bros. is taking on oversight of Cartoon Network, Turner Classic Movies and other cablers as well as all animation production and consumer products for WarnerMedia brands. On Monday, Tsujihara told Variety the moves amounted to “a better alignment of the platform to the content, especially with kids and young adults.”
Tsujihara, who has been chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. since early 2013, overseeing all aspects of the world’s largest film and television studio. Warner Bros. was acquired along with the rest of Time Warner in June 2018 by AT&T. WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey and other AT&T brass are said to think highly of Tsujihara as a leader and of his track record since taking the reins of the studio.
Tsujihara was tapped for the top job after a nearly three-year bakeoff with two other top executives, then-TV chief Bruce Rosenblum and then-movie head Jeff Robinov. He’s been with the studio since 1994. He rose from business development to become head of home entertainment. He led Warner Bros.’ successful expansion of its video game operations before he was chosen to succeed Barry Meyer as studio chief.
Multiple sources close to the situation said that WarnerMedia and AT&T are prepared to support Tsujihara continuing in his role as Warner Bros. chief, although that would likely change quickly if additional allegations surface. A source said the Kirk situation raises question of “judgment” on Tsujihara’s part. Another source with deep roots on the Warner Bros. lot said Tsujihara erred significantly in striking up friendships with Packer and Ratner — both of whom have reputations as hard-partying playboys — so soon after he was promoted to CEO.
The report in the Reporter about the Kirk situation came the same day Tsujihara was in New York City for a town hall meeting with WarnerMedia employees to discuss the restructuring unveiled on Monday. Warner Bros. staffers in Burbank expressed surprise and dismay at the public airing of Tsujihara’s alleged relationship with Kirk. Some see it as an embarrassing lapse in judgment. Others interpreted the details as painful evidence that the tradition of the Hollywood “casting couch” is still alive and well for aspiring actresses.
On the heels of the corporate shakeup unveiled Monday, one longtime Warner Bros. staffer observed that Tsujihara’s alleged indiscretions may encourage AT&T’s corporate leaders to put the studio on tight leash. “This is the last thing we needed right now,” said the executive.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Brett Ratner helped introduce Charlotte Kirk to Kevin Tsujihara.