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WarnerMedia’s Ann Sarnoff, Andy Forssell to exit when Discovery merger closes

Ann Sarnoff, chair and CEO of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group, will leave WarnerMedia when its merger with Discovery is finalised.

Ann Sarnoff

Word of Sarnoff’s departure came a few hours after WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar confirmed he too would be exiting the company once the blockbuster combination is complete.

“While I’ve sent you notes for the last few years keeping you updated on our successes and changes at our company, this note is different, as it will be my last in this role,” said Sarnoff in a memo sent internally. “I will be leaving the company upon the close of the WarnerMedia/Discovery transaction.”

The high-profile departures came thick and fast on a whirlwind Tuesday as Andy Forssell, head of direct-to-consumer service HBO Max, was also confirmed to be departing the company.

Sarnoff assumed the role of chair and CEO of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group in 2020, with responsibility for all WarnerMedia’s entertainment-focused teams, including Warner Bros Pictures Group, HBO and HBO Max, the Warner Bros Television Group, DC, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, TCM, Cartoon Network Studios, WB Animation, TBS, TNT and TruTV.

“It has been remarkable to watch Ann bring together formerly disparate creative teams and invest in those teams, resulting in creative excellence and business results unlike this company has seen before,” said outgoing CEO Kilar.

Sarnoff joined the company in 2019 as chair and CEO of Warner Bros and before that was president of BBC Studios America.

Andy Forssell

Meanwhile, Forssell joined WarnerMedia in May of 2019 to lead the product, marketing, consumer engagement and global roll-out of HBO Max. Before that, he was chief operating officer at Otter Media and Fullscreen. He is also the former interim CEO of Hulu, a role he assumed when Kilar departed the streaming platform in 2013.

The close of the WarnerMedia-Discovery merger, and the subsequent formation of Warner Bros Discovery, is imminent, with some reports suggesting the combination could be finalised before the end of the week. The new company will trade on the Nasdaq under the symbol WBD.

The merger will bring WarnerMedia assets including HBO, HBO Max and Warner Bros under the same umbrella as Discovery-owned assets such as TLC, Food Network, HGTV and Discovery+.

Last month, Discovery chief financial officer Gunnar Wiedenfels confirmed that HBO Max and Discovery+ will be combined into a single streaming entity, though he said it would not happen immediately. In the interim, Warner Bros Discovery will bundle HBO Max and Discovery+, potentially under a single sign-on, added Wiedenfels.

The merger will see WarnerMedia’s parent company, telecoms giant AT&T, spin off WarnerMedia and combine it with Discovery. AT&T will receive around US$43bn in a combination of cash, debt securities and WarnerMedia’s retention of certain debt. AT&T shareholders will receive a 71% stake in the new company and Discovery shareholders will receive the remaining 29%.


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