SBD/July 18, 2013/People and Pop Culture

Shake-Up At Turner: Phil Kent Steps Down As Chair & CEO, John Martin To Take Over

Turner Broadcasting System Chair & CEO PHIL KENT will step down in January "after a dozen years at the helm" and will be succeeded by Time Warner CFO JOHN MARTIN, according to Cynthia Littleton of VARIETY. Kent will "remain chairman of TBS for a period" in '14. He said that he had been "mulling the decision to step down for some time, but the final agreement came together a few weeks ago during a long conversation over breakfast" with Time Warner Chair & CEO JEFF BEWKES as they "discussed the prospect of a new long-term contract" (VARIETY.com, 7/17).

CRITICAL JUNCTURE: CABLEFAX DAILY writes Martin "inherits Turner at a critical venture -- the bulk of its distribution deals are up for renewal between now and sometime in '16." Some of those agreements "are 5-10 years old, with Turner looking for a much larger fee given NBA, MLB and other sports rights." Martin will be based "primarily out of NY but will have an office in Atlanta and will spend a lot of time there" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 7/18). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Peers & Hagey note Kent has "run Turner since 2003, a period of mixed performances for the unit." For Martin the "appointment is a chance to get operating experience at one of Time Warner's most important businesses." It positions him as "one of several potential successors" to Bewkes. Martin's appointment "likely signals a cultural shift" at Turner (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/18). In N.Y., Bill Carter writes Kent was "widely respected at Turner, but from his base in Atlanta he had somewhat less direct contact with the Time Warner leadership" than execs in N.Y. or L.A. (N.Y. TIMES, 7/18). In L.A., Joe Flint reports Turner may meet "resistance from distributors that are growing tired of footing the bill for sports programming that a majority of viewers don't watch." A Time Warner veteran, Martin will "still likely be viewed as an outsider by Turner." Martin may take a "more hands-on approach at Turner than Kent" (L.A. TIMES, 7/18). Flint wrote if "recent history is any guide, there may be an exodus of top executives at Turner Broadcasting in the wake" of Kent stepping down. At Turner, among those that "may have bruised egos about Martin getting the Kent job" include Turner President of Sales, Distribution & Sports DAVID LEVY. Levy could "end up getting some additional turf or an enhanced title to appease him" (LATIMES.com, 7/17).
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