By Liana B. Baker
July 17 Time Warner Inc said on
Wednesday it is appointing a new chief at Turner Broadcasting to
replace longtime executive Phil Kent, who steps down in 2014,
the latest changes to hit the unit that oversees cable networks
CNN, TBS and TNT.
The executive shuffle, which will see Time Warner's current
finance chief John Martin, 46, take over as Turner's CEO
starting in 2014, when Kent steps down, comes at a time when CNN
is under transition.
Jeff Bewkes, Time Warner's CEO, tapped Jeff Zucker, the
former CEO of NBCUniversal in November to be the new chief of
the news channel and orchestrate a turnaround to the network
which was struggling in ratings and losing out to Fox News and
Even though CNN is trying to make a comeback, Morningstar
analyst Michael Corty said that the Turner unit is in better
position than it was a few years ago, with stronger ratings,
better original programming and syndicated shows. Time Warner
acquired Turner Broadcasting in 1996.
Gabelli & Co estimates Turner generated $9.5 billion in
revenue for Time Warner in 2012. HBO, which is under separate
leadership made Time Warner $4.5 billion in revenue in 2012,
according to Gabelli & Co analyst Brett Harriss.
Under Kent, who is 58, comedy channel TBS lured Conan
O'Brien from broadcast TV, struck a syndication deal for CBS'
"The Big Bang Theory," which became one of the top-rated shows
on cable, and secured valuable NCAA and NBA basketball rights.
Advertising at the unit was down 1 percent in the first
quarter, which surprised Wall Street analysts. The company said
second-quarter ad revenue at its networks will be up in the high
single digits in percentage terms.
Bewkes said in a statement that the move came at Kent's
"initiation" and that now was the "right time to announce the
next generation of leadership."
Kent said in an internal memo obtained by Reuters that he
had many conversations with Bewkes and decided not to renew his
contract when it ends next year.
"I've told Jeff (Bewkes) and John Martin that they have my
full and enthusiastic support, and that I'll do whatever I can
to assist when John assumes the title of CEO next January, and I
remain chairman," Kent said.
Time Warner could be grooming finance chief John Martin to
be a potential CEO with the new role at Turner, analysts said.
Martin had been Time Warner's CFO since 2008.
"They're always looking to groom potential candidates so
it's a step in that direction and he's one of the many
possibilities to replace Bewkes one day," Morningstar's Corty
Walt Disney Company used a similar tactic in 2010
when the company swapped the jobs of then-finance chief Tom
Staggs and parks chairman Jay Rasulo, Gabelli & Co analyst
Bewkes, 61, has been Time Warner's CEO since 2008.
Martin will become Turner's CEO on Jan. 1, 2014. Kent will
serve as Turner's chairman until the end of 2014, the company
Time Warner said it would name a new finance chief in the
next few weeks.