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Warner Bros' chief steps down over alleged sexual relationship with actress

WarnerMedia chief John Stankey said Kevin Tsujihara’s departure was in the studio’s “best interest”.

Warner Bros chief Kevin Tsujihara
Warner Bros chief Kevin Tsujihara
Image: Chris Pizzello/Invision via PA Images

WARNER BROS CHIEF Kevin Tsujihara has stepped down from the studio following claims that he promised roles to an actress with whom he was having an affair.

WarnerMedia chief executive John Stankey announced Tsujihara’s exit as chairman and chief executive of Warner Bros, saying his departure was in the studio’s “best interest”.

“Kevin has contributed greatly to the studio’s success over the past 25 years and for that we thank him,” Stankey said.

“Kevin acknowledges that his mistakes are inconsistent with the company’s leadership expectations and could impact the company’s ability to execute going forward.”

Earlier this month, WarnerMedia, the studio’s parent company, launched an investigation after a Hollywood Reporter story, published on 6 March, detailed text messages between Tsujihara (54) and British actress Charlotte Kirk going back to 2013.

The messages suggested a quid pro quo sexual relationship between the aspiring actress and Tsujihara in which he made promises that he’d introduce her to influential executives and she’d be considered for roles in movies and television.

In a memo to Warner Bros staff today, Tsujihara said he was departing “after lengthy introspection, and discussions with John Stankey over the past week”.

He said:

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 organisation is truly admirable, and I won’t let media attention on my past detract from all the great work the team is doing.

Tsujihara’s lawyer earlier stated that Tsujihara “had no direct role in the hiring of this actress”. He declined further comment today.

Tsujihara, who has headed the Burbank, California, studio since 2013, earlier pledged to fully cooperate with the studio’s investigation.

He apologised to Warner Bros staff for “mistakes in my personal life that have caused pain and embarrassment to the people I love the most”.

Internal investigation

Actress Charlotte Kirk appeared in Warner Bros’ How to Be Single in 2016 and Ocean’s 8 in 2018.

She has denied any inappropriate behaviour on the part of Tsujihara or two other executives, Brett Ratner and James Packer, who she communicated with.

“Mr Tsujihara never promised me anything,” Kirk said in an earlier statement.

WarnerMedia said today that its internal investigation into the situation will continue. The investigation is being carried out by a third-party law firm.

Tsujihara’s exit comes after other high-profile executive departures in the post-Harvey Weinstein #MeToo era.

CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves was pushed out after numerous women accused him of sexual harassment.

Walt Disney Animation chief John Lasseter was also ousted after he acknowledged missteps in his behaviour with employees.

The studio will now begin a search for a new chief as it also prepares to launch a streaming service designed to compete with Netflix.

Includes reporting by Associated Press

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