Rafu Wire and Staff Reports
NEW YORK – WarnerMedia on March 18 announced that Kevin Tsujihara will step down as chairman and chief executive officer of Warner Bros. Entertainment.
“It is in the best interest of WarnerMedia, Warner Bros., our employees and our partners for Kevin to step down as Chairman and CEO of Warner Bros.,” said WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey. “Kevin has contributed greatly to the studio’s success over the past 25 years and for that we thank him. Kevin acknowledges that his mistakes are inconsistent with the company’s leadership expectations and could impact the Company’s ability to execute going forward.”
The company continues to work with a third-party law firm to complete its investigation with Tsujihara’s cooperation. An interim leadership team is being put together.
On March 6, The Hollywood Reporter published a story alleging that Tsujihara used his influence to get work for British actress Charlotte Kirk, with whom he was having an affair. The story, which included text messages between the two going back to 2013, also involved Australian billionaire James Packer and controversial Hollywood director Brett Ratner.
Kirk appeared in two Warner Bros. films, “How to Be Single” (2016) and “Ocean’s 8” (2018). She will play Nicole Brown Simpson in an upcoming independent film.
Kirk has denied any inappropriate behavior on the part of Tsujihara and stated, “Mr. Tsujihara never promised me anything.”
Tsujihara’s attorney, Bert H. Deixler, said that Tsujihara “had no direct role in the hiring of this actress.”
In a letter to Warners staff on Monday, Tsujihara wrote:
“Over the past week and a half, I have been reflecting on how the attention on my past actions might impact the company’s future. After lengthy introspection, and discussions with John Stankey over the past week, we have decided that it is in Warner Bros.’ best interest that I step down as chairman and CEO.
“I love this company and the people that make it so great. I’ve been honored to head this organization and work alongside all of its talented employees over the past 25 years. Together we’ve built this studio into an unequivocal leader in the industry.
“However, it has become clear that my continued leadership could be a distraction and an obstacle to the company’s continued success. The hard work of everyone within our organization is truly admirable, and I won’t let media attention on my past detract from all the great work the team is doing.
“I am overwhelmed and grateful for the outpouring of support I have received from colleagues and industry partners during this difficult time.
“Again, I am so proud of the great work that you do every day to make Warner Bros. the gold standard in our industry. It has been a pleasure to work alongside each and every one of you, and I wish you all the absolute best.”
In 2013, Tsujihara became the first Asian American to head a major Hollywood studio. He played a role in Warner Bros.’ acquisition of “Fantastic Beasts,” J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” prequel series; the hit DC Comics films “Wonder Woman” and “Aquaman”; and “The Lego Movie” and its spinoffs. Warner Bros.’ top Oscar contender this year was “A Star Is Born.”
Tsujihara was also a passionate advocate for the hit romantic comedy “Crazy Rich Asians,” the first Hollywood studio film with an all-Asian cast since “The Joy Luck Club” in 1993.