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WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar — whose future has been in doubt since AT&T’s $43 billion deal to spin off its entertainment unit — will remain at the helm of the company until mid-2022, it emerged on Thursday.
Kilar has told staffers that he will continue in his current role as WarnerMedia CEO for the next 12 months, which is roughly when the media company’s merger with Discovery is expected to close, sources said.
Kilar, who only took the WarnerMedia job last April, made the surprise announcement Thursday at a celebration of the one-year anniversary of WarnerMedia’s streaming service HBO Max, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news.
Kilar, who recently became eligible for $53 million in cash and stock options, stands to pocket his entire annual $2.5 million salary and his targeted bonus if terminated after two years on the job, according to to AT&T SEC filing in March. His severance after one year would have included unpaid salary and a prorated bonus subject to performance.
“My plan and my focus is to remain here in my CEO role at WarnerMedia,” Kilar reportedly said. “I am not thinking right now about post-merger. There will be a time to consider that topic in 2022.”
“I believe we have unfinished business and the work of the next year can and should be extremely fulfilling as the world continues to see what we are capable of doing,” Kilar reported said.
WarnerMedia confirmed the news but declined to comment further.
Prior to Thursday’s announcement, sources had said Kilar was negotiating his exit package following AT&T’s May 17 announcement that it would merge the entertainment unit behind CNN, HBO Max and movie studio Warner Bros. with Discovery, which owns TLC, Animal Planet and The Food Network.
Kilar even reportedly hired a team of lawyers led by entertainment powerhouse Allen Grubman to negotiate his final pay package. Grubman did not return requests for comment.
The CEO, who joined WarnerMedia last May, was said to have been blindsided by deal talks between AT&T CEO John Stankey and Discovery boss David Zaslav, who will helm the company when it is combined in mid-2022.
Reporters honed in on the uncertainty of Kilar’s future during a press briefing on the deal last week. When Stankey was asked by reporters about Kilar’s role at the new company, he said the decision would be up to Zaslav.
“David’s got decisions he’s gotta make across a broad cross-section of how he wants to organize the business and who will be in what roles moving forward in this transition period,” he said.
Zaslav called Kilar a “fantastic talent” but didn’t offer any insight as to whether he’d keep Kilar, who had previously served as CEO of Hulu, onboard.
In Kilar’s brief time at WarnerMedia, he’s made meaningful changes in helping build HBO Max’s technical platform, but he has also ruffled feathers, sources told The Post last week.
Kilar quickly led a massive restructuring of WarnerMedia that sent well-respected division executives packing, including chairman Bob Greenblatt and chief content officer Kevin Reilly.
The exec also shattered the theatrical window by sending newly released Warner Bros. movies like “Tom & Jerry” directly to HBO Max a month after they premiered in movie theaters.
Although the move was meant to boost pandemic sales, it rankled Hollywood. Top brass also grew weary of HBO Max’s slow subscriber growth, sources said. In the most recent quarter, HBO Max and HBO notched 41 million domestic subscribers, a mere 8 million subscribers gain from a year earlier.
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