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Volume 27 No. 32
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David Levy Discusses Why He's Leaving Turner, Reflects On Tenure

In addition to sports, Levy also oversees Turner’s entertainment channels, ad sales and affiliate sales
Photo: Tony Florez Photography

Turner President DAVID LEVY confirmed to THE DAILY that he is leaving the company where he has spent the past 32-plus years. Levy said that he made his decision after several conversations where WarnerMedia CEO JOHN STANKEY outlined a vision for the company that took away a lot of the responsibilities from the long-time Turner exec. “Candidly, my career aspirations weren’t lining up to where the company was going to reorganize,” Levy said. Having overseen Turner Sports since '03, Levy has made a name for himself as one of the sports business’ biggest dealmakers. In addition to sports, Levy also oversees Turner’s entertainment channels, ad sales and affiliate sales. “My career aspirations are far bigger and wider -- it’s distribution, it’s sales, it’s programming, it’s acquisition, it’s everything across the board,” he said. “What happened here is that a lot of that is going to be reorganized, and there wasn't going to be a significant role for me.”

MOVING PARTS: Levy’s decision to leave Turner comes just two days after a federal appeals court rejected Justice Department arguments and allowed AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner to move forward. News of Levy’s resignation came as a surprise to many in the business who thought Levy’s spot in the newly merged company -- where he would report to Stankey -- was secure. It was reported earlier this week that AT&T was close to giving longtime TV exec ROBERT GREENBLATT a senior role overseeing HBO and Turner’s entertainment nets, a move that would shrink the number of businesses Levy would have overseen in the new company. Levy is not the only high-ranking exec to leave the newly merged company this week. On Thursday, HBO Chair & CEO RICHARD PLEPLER told staff that he was leaving as well.

NEVER MISS AN OPPORTUNITY: Under Levy’s direction, Turner Sports was at the table for every significant rights fee negotiation in the U.S. Turner picked up the rights for the NBA and MLB postseason and orchestrated the deal to have the Final Four on cable TV for the first time a few years ago. Turner Sports President LENNY DANIELS is expected to continue to oversee the company’s sports division, and Levy said that he does not expect the company’s sports strategy to change. “I still believe the AT&T/WarnerMedia was a great acquisition,” he said. “The combination of these two companies is very powerful. It’s going to be a powerful opportunity to grow these businesses and work with some of these leagues. It just wasn't right for me.”

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LET'S MAKE A DEAL: Over the years, Levy earned a reputation as a forward-thinking and risk-taking exec. He spoke about his '12 deal to buy Bleacher Report for $175M. “It wasn’t just buying the actual brand itself, but it was how we transformed that brand and integrated a digital business into a mature media company,” Levy said. “Mature media companies typically buy these things and they don’t work. This one is flourishing.” He also spoke of the 14-year, $10.8B deal he signed with CBS in '10 for the NCAA Tournament. Those rights now go through '32 and feature the two competing network groups sharing talent, marketing, ad sales and promotions around the tournament. “It’s so unique in this business,” he said. “It’s never been replicated.”

COMPANY MAN: Levy is something of a Turner lifer. He started with the company more than 32 years ago as an account exec. He ran international for eight years before taking over sports and ad sales for Turner. Eventually, he oversaw distribution and for the past six years has run Turner’s entertainment networks, as well. "My aspirations were, really, one day to be the CEO of Turner,” he said. “That’s really what my aspirations were, and there’s no CEO role for that today. ... It’s been 32 years; it’s a great company. I love it. It’s just time to do something new.”

A FINAL GOODBYE: Levy sent a memo to Turner staff on Friday morning regarding his departure.