The final bow has been placed atop the $40 billion merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery, forming one of the largest pure content players in the media business.
The AT&T spinoff maneuver formally closed late Friday, and Monday will see Warner Bros Discovery stock begin trading, under the ticker symbol “WBD.”
Discovery CEO David Zaslav had been set as the new leader of Warner Bros Discovery since the time the deal was first proposed last May. Questions swirled for months, though, about the leadership team he would put in place. Earlier this week, he wound up favoring Discovery brass across the board (something Deadline’s reporting had predicted a month ago).
JB Perrette, who had been head of streaming and international for Discovery, was installed as CEO and president of global streaming and interactive entertainment. Gunnar Wiedenfels, former CFO at Discovery and one of the architects of the merger, will hold the same title at the new company but with slightly expanded turf. Other key promotions went to longtime exec Bruce Campbell, who became chief revenue and strategy officer; and Kathleen Finch, the former head of lifestyle brands who now oversees all linear networks.
Other notable appointments at the new company included four more Discovery vets: Adria Alpert Romm, chief people and culture officer; David Leavy, chief corporate affairs officer; Lori Locke, chief accounting officer; and general counsel Savalle Sims.
HBO chief Casey Bloys and Warner Bros film and TV bosses Toby Emmerich and Channing Dungey were also confirmed to be continuing on in the new structure, as was international chief Gerhard Zeiler. Yet the confirmation of the initial flight of execs didn’t put to rest all of the uncertainty, however. A significant vacancy, for example, exists atop Turner Sports, a role that opened up when Jeff Zucker exited last February. (His CNN replacement, Chris Licht, has no sports oversight.) Personnel overhauls are being mulled for many other parts of the empire as the integration process begins.
Consolidation will define the larger org chart, in another round of streamlining for WarnerMedia staffers who have endured several of them over the past few years. The $3 billion cost savings promised to Wall Street by Discovery will mean significant job cuts. Details of those reductions — who stays and who goes — will be the next closely watched set of developments in the entertainment world’s most consequential deal in years.
One thing is clear: The top-level regime put into place by former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar is largely gone, starting with Kilar himself. Nine of his 11 direct reports exited the company, including studios and networks chief Ann Sarnoff and streaming overseer Andy Forssell. Other departures included those of CFO Jennifer Biry; human resources chief Jim Cummings; EVP of communications and chief inclusion officer Christy Haubegger; EVP and chief revenue officer Tony Goncalves; general counsel Jim Meza; and chief technology officer Richard Tom.
Shortly before announcing the close of the deal, Jon steinlauf was named Chief US Advertising Sales Officer of the new company. There was no immediate word on the status of WarnerMedia ad sales chief JP Colaco. Like Andy Forssell and Richard Tom, Colaco had worked for years at Hulu, which Kilar ran as CEO. He also had a senior exec post at Vessell, the YouTube rival Kilar founded and later sold to Verizon.