WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar Exits Before Discovery Merger

WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar announced on Tuesday that he is stepping down ahead of the completion of Discovery’s acquisition of the currently AT&T-owned company, which is expected to occur on April 11.

While Kilar’s exit from WarnerMedia upon the completion of the merger had been expected ever since the planned transaction was first announced by AT&T and Discovery last spring, this marks the exec’s formalization of that plan as Discovery chief David Zaslav prepares to run the combined company, Warner Bros. Discovery.

“With the pending transaction with Discovery nearing close, now is the right time to share with each of you that I will be departing this amazing company,” Kilar said in a memo sent to WarnerMedia staff. “There are many feelings one could have in a moment like this, but for me there are none bigger, or more lasting, than the feelings of gratitude and love that I have for this team, this company, and this mission. I’ve never been more professionally fulfilled. I’ve never been professionally happy. This team—and what we’ve built together—are the reasons for that. We’re leading the industry creatively. We’ve elevated technology, product, and design to the highest levels in the company. We’re operating as one team, proudly and successfully going direct to consumers across the globe. It has been deeply gratifying to lean into the future alongside each of you and to do so with conviction.”

Kilar was brought on as CEO of WarnerMedia in April 2020, just as it was preparing to launch streaming service HBO Max. It wasn’t Kilar’s first OTT rodeo, as he was named CEO of Hulu shortly after its 2007 launch, and over the next five years built it into a worthy Netflix competitor.

Since coming aboard WarnerMedia, Kilar — who founded YouTube competitor Vessel, which was sold and dissolved into Verizon Communications in October 2016 — rocked the boat with extensive executive shuffling and layoffs as the company tried to reorient itself to fit a more streaming-centric future ( with AT&T CEO John Stankey openly praising Kilar’s strategic focus). Then, amid months of struggle for film exhibitors due to pandemic-related theater closures, he unveiled a plan in December 2020 to release every film from Warner Bros.’ 2021 theatrical slate simultaneously on HBO Max, free of charge to subscribers, a move that sent shockwaves across the industry.

See the memo in full that Kilar sent to staff below.

Team —

With the pending transaction with Discovery nearing close, now is the right time to share with each of you that I will be leaving this amazing company.

There are many feelings one could have in a moment like this, but for me there are none bigger, or more lasting, than the feelings of gratitude and love that I have for this team, this company, and this mission. I’ve never been more professionally fulfilled. I’ve never been professionally happy. This team – and what we’ve built together – are the reasons for that. We’re leading the industry creatively. We’ve elevated technology, product, and design to the highest levels in the company. We’re operating as one team, proudly and successfully going direct to consumers across the globe. It has been deeply gratifying to lean into the future alongside each of you and to do so with conviction.

The joys are many, especially the walk-and-talks that I’ve had with a great many WarnerMedia team members, diving deeply into the matters at hand, whether on the storied lot in Burbank, along The High Line at Hudson Yards, in and around Techwood and CNN Center, inside our archives, across the expansive lot at Leavesden, at any of our game studio locations, or the many other locations where this team quite literally changes the world. Apparently, word has gotten around that when Jason calls for a walk-and-talk, be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes!

For those of you that know me well (or follow me on Twitter), it comes as no surprise that I adore our history and the footprint we have as a company across the globe. I’ve done my best to visit and get to know as many of you as possible and to photographically document my love for this team and this company along the way via social media. So, when my wife Jamie and I were thinking about what we could do on our own to adequately express our appreciation to each of you, we came up with the idea to create a series of artifacts featuring some of the photos I’ve taken to celebrate this team and Warner Media. We’re inviting each of you to visit this website and choose an image that resonates…from the iconic Warner Bros. water tower, the gleaming towers of Hudson Yards, the virtual production stage in Leavesden, and several more. An artifact featuring that image (and a note from me on the back) will be shipped to you in the coming weeks. Our hope is that this memento will bring a smile and remind you of the important contributions we’ve made to the 99-year legacy of this extraordinary company.

Leading this team has been the honor of my lifetime. My heart is so full, and I am beyond grateful to each of you. There is no better team on the planet, and I will savor every last step as I wander the lot in Burbank several more times this week, with this team on my mind, always.

Jason

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