Nine senior WarnerMedia executives resigned on the eve of the Discovery acquisition

WarnerMedia’s CEO and most of his executive team are leaving the company on the eve of its takeover by rival Discovery, a mass turnover in the upper echelons of one of Hollywood’s biggest empires.

Jason Kilar — a video-streaming veteran whom WarnerMedia parent AT&T hired to take on Netflix — will drop out, as will eight others, including the group’s chief financial officer and chief executive of the entertainment portfolio.

The Exodus comes as Discovery prepares to take over WarnerMedia staged the media coup of the decade after its CEO David Zaslav. The $43 billion merger brings together his much smaller company Discovery with WarnerMedia, which owns HBO, Warner Bros and CNN.

Kilar decided to leave the company after being kept in the dark during the WarnerMedia discovery deal negotiations last year, a person close to the matter said. Ann Sarnoff, who runs Warner Bros’ studio business, also decided to leave as her role would have been severely limited in the new structure under Discovery, the person said.

The merger is expected to be completed on Friday. Zaslav is well-respected in the media business, although some insiders have questioned how a reality TV executive like E 90 day fiance will preside over some of Hollywood’s most coveted assets.

Discovery will announce its new leadership team within the next week, said a person close to the situation. The newly combined company will be the second largest entertainment group by revenue.

The media industry has consolidated as the biggest companies try to reinvent themselves. Within the last two years Disney, Apple, WarnerMedia, Comcast, Discovery and others have launched streaming services with global ambitions. With WarnerMedia, Zaslav wants to build a service that can compete with market leaders Netflix and Disney.

WarnerMedia’s overhaul is the second major reorganization, after telecoms giant AT&T paid $85 billion to acquire the company and launch it into media in 2019, only to pull out and sell three years later. Nine senior WarnerMedia executives resigned on the eve of the Discovery acquisition

Adam Bradshaw

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