LOS ANGELES — WarnerMedia Studios & Networks Group chief executive Ann Sarnoff will be leaving the company, with an announcement as soon as this week, three people informed on the matter.
Ms Sarnoff, who declined to comment, was chosen to lead Warner Bros. in 2019 despite limited Hollywood experience, becoming the first woman to play the role. It is departing as WarnerMedia, a division of AT&T, is set to complete the merger with Discovery. Ms Sarnoff’s boss, Jason Keeler, who has been WarnerMedia’s chief executive since 2020, announced her exit on Tuesday.
Like Mr. Killar, Ms. Sarnoff found herself without a seat in the musical chairs game that accompanies mergers of competing companies, people informed on the matter, who asked anonymity to discuss the confidential information. Spoke on condition. The Warner Bros. Discovery management structure is still unknown, but Discovery’s chief executive David Zaslav, who will run the new company, is expected to hold at least part of Ms. Sarnoff’s portfolio. He has a dozen direct reports.
Her job includes supervising HBO and HBO Max; Warner Bros. Film and Television Studios; multiple cable channels, including TBS and TNT; and a larger consumer products division. Breaking the silent nature of some of those units has been one of Ms. Sarnoff’s achievements.
After news of her departure became public, Mr Zaslav said in an email that Ms Sarnoff was “a passionate and committed manager” who “with honesty, focus and hard work in bringing together WarnerMedia’s businesses, brands and workforce”. “She was a pioneer. In an email of his own, Mr Killar called Ms Sarnoff a “first-class human being” and “the definition of a selfless leader”.
Ms Sarnoff’s job security has been the subject of Hollywood gossip for months, with agents and producers linked to Warner insisting she was moving out and some members of her team insisting the opposite. Such speculation can be deadly in show business, adding to whisper conventional wisdom, often resulting in an irreversible state of weakness in the eyes of Hollywood’s creative community.
To be fair, Ms. Sarnoff, the shrewd and friendly Koda, never really had the opportunity to do her job. The pandemic shut down the entertainment business almost seven months after it started. AT&T, which hired him, decided to liquidate WarnerMedia last May.
Prior to joining WarnerMedia, Sarnoff held leadership roles at Nickelodeon, the Women’s National Basketball Federation, Dow Jones and BBC Studio America.