Time Warner tapped Kevin Tsujihara as chief executive of Warner Bros., making him just the second Asian American to head a major Hollywood studio, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The appointment of Tsujihara, 48, currently head of Warner Bros. home entertainment division, ends a two-year battle to find a successor to current chairman and CEO Barry Meyer, who will retire in December.
Tsujihara, a third-generation Japanese American from the Bay Area, will take over on March 1 and was largely considered a dark-horse candidate for the job, since tradition dictates the head of the TV unit generally takes over.
“Everyone needs a leader, and Kevin was the person best equipped to unify the company at this time,” Meyer said in an interview, according to the Times. “We just thought he was the best choice for the whole company.”
Tsujihara, who will gain the chairman title when Meyer steps down, does not have experience running the company’s marquee movie and television businesses. In fact, the USC graduate had launched a tax preparation website before joining Warner Bros. in 1994.
His ascension is notable not only because of the lack of racial diversity in Hollywood’s corporate suites but also because studio chiefs in the past have come from the worlds of television, marketing and film distribution — but never the newer business of home entertainment. Tsujihara worked in business development and online content before taking his current post as head of home entertainment and digital distribution in 2005.
Deadline.com’s Nikki Finke said ”Hollywood is stunned” and Tsujihara’s appointment ”just destabilized Warner Bros. in a big way” since half of the company’s revenue comes from its TV unit.
Trade publication Variety said the appointment surprised many Hollywood insiders.
As chief of the studio’s home video division, Tsujihara had been seen as something of a long shot in a three-way battle with Warner Bros. Picture Group president Jeff Robinov and Warner Bros. TV Group president Bruce Rosenblum to succeed Barry Meyer, who will remain chairman through 2013.
Tsujihara’s hiring makes him just the second Asian American head of a Hollywood studio. In the late 1990s, Chris Lee was president of motion picture production for Columbia/TriStar Pictures, which was later acquired by Sony.