Jeffrey Schlesinger, Ron Sanders and Kim Williams Exit Warner Bros. Amid Mass WarnerMedia Layoffs

Jeffrey Schlesinger Kim Williams Ron Sanders
Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Hundreds of employees at WarnerMedia are being let go on Monday as part of a company-wide restructuring.

Among the staffers being let go are Jeffrey Schlesinger, the president of Warner Bros. Worldwide Television Distribution. Ron Sanders, who served as president of Warner Bros.’ worldwide theatrical distribution and home entertainment as well as executive vice president of international business operations, as well as Kim Williams, EVP and CFO of Warner Bros. Entertainment, are also departing.

Schlesinger had been with Warner Bros. for over three decades. For a decade starting in 1984, he served as senior vice president of international television distribution at Warner Bros. and at Lorimar Telepictures, which was acquired by Warner Bros. in 1990. Schlesinger then went on to become president of Warner Bros. International Television in 1994 before assuming his most recent role as the head of distribution in 2013.

“It’s been a great 37 year run, with 26 as president of International Television Distribution, spanning six mergers, millions of miles traveled, thousands of programs sold and billions of dollars generated,” said Schlesinger. “In the end, it took a global pandemic and a complete reorganization of the company for me to trip over the last hurdle. I hope to always be remembered as the only studio executive to ride into an International Screenings party at the studio on the back of an elephant in the ‘good old days.’”

Sanders oversaw global theatrical distribution and the studio’s home entertainment distribution operation, as well as the dating and release plans of all Warner Bros. Pictures  and New Line Cinema film releases globally. He also manaed local film production, overseeing more than 50 Warner Bros.-produced local language films produced internationally.

In home entertainment, Sanders spent seven years as president of the unit, distributing the Harry Potter, Batman, Superman, The Hobbit and Lego franchises. He had been with Warner Bros. since 1991.

“Warner Bros. is known for being the most celebrated studio in history for good reason,” said Sanders. “The talent is unmatched, both on the creative and business sides, and I’m honored to have been entrusted to oversee a great portfolio of businesses around the world for the last 30 years.”

Williams was responsible for all of Warner Bros. Entertainment’s finacial activities, including financial reporting, budgeting and planning for future business growth. Having occupied the role since 2015, she oversaw the studio’s financial agenda and Warner Bros. worldwide studio operations.

“Warner Bros. has a unique and wonderful history; heralded and iconic, it is one that I am proud to have been part of,” said Williams. “It is also filled to the brim with the best and brightest. I will cherish my time at this great company.”

Warner Bros. chief Ann Sarnoff issued a statement of appreciation for the three executives.

“Jeff, Ron and Kim are all highly valued members of my senior leadership team, and we will be forever grateful for the many meaningful and lasting contributions each of them has made to Warner Bros.,” she said. “I thank them all for their dedication and years of service, and wish them the very best in their next chapters.”

Impacted staffers begun being informed about the cuts at roughly 10:30 a.m. PT. Approximately 650 people at Warner Bros. are expected to be let go, according to people familiar with the matter, while HBO will cut 150 and 175 staffers.

The widespread layoffs come in the wake of an overhaul at the media company’s top ranks initiated by Jason Kilar, who took over as WarnerMedia CEO in May. One that saw the ouster of the top programming leaders at HBO Max, Robert Greenblatt and Kevin Reilly, as well as a move to consolidate WarnerMedia’s production operations into a single entity. Sarnoff has been placed in charge of developing content for the new streaming service as well as the company’s big entertainment focused basic-cable networks: TNT, TBS and truTV. Andy Forssell, general manager of HBO Max, was put in charge of the new entity’s business operations. The hope is that the changes will streamline the business and help with WarnerMedia’s new emphasis on HBO Max, its new streaming service and Netflix challenger.

Other media companies, including Disney and NBCUniversal, have enacted rounds of layoffs and furloughs as the public health crisis has sparked a recession, disrupted film and television production, and closed movie theaters.