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WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar announces exit as Discovery deal nears close

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Kilar announced his exit in a memo to staff

15th Annual CNN Heroes All-Star Tribute Photo by Dominik Bindl/Getty Images

The chief executive of WarnerMedia, Jason Kilar, has announced that he is leaving the company.

In a memo shared with staff today and obtained by The Verge, Kilar said that his exit will correspond with the pending merger between WarnerMedia and Discovery. Kilar wrote there were “many feelings one could have in a moment like this, but for me there are none bigger, or more lasting, than the feelings of gratitude and love that I have for this team, this company, and this mission.” The news was earlier reported by The Hollywood Reporter.

“I’ve never been more fulfilled professionally. I’ve never been happier professionally. This team — and what we’ve built together — are the reasons for that,” Kilar wrote. “We’re leading the industry creatively. We’ve elevated technology, product, and design to the highest levels in the company. We’re operating as one team, proudly and successfully going direct to consumers across the globe. It has been deeply gratifying to lean into the future alongside each of you and to do so with conviction.”

Kilar’s has been expected to leave the company but was reported to hold his role as CEO through early 2022, around the time of the merger close. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the deal — which has already gotten regulatory approval — is expected to close sometime during the second quarter of 2022 but could be finalized as soon as next week. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has long been positioned to lead the merged companies.

Kilar, a prominent executive in the streaming space, was the founding CEO at Hulu and was named CEO of WarnerMedia in the spring of 2020. It was under Kilar that WarnerMedia controversially moved its entire 2021 film slate to a hybrid release on HBO Max during the pandemic — a move that followed a years-long tug-of-war between theaters and studios over exclusivity windows.

“Leading this team has been the honor of my lifetime,” Kilar said. “My heart is so full, and I am beyond thankful to each of you. There is no better team on the planet, and I will savor every last step as I wander the lot in Burbank several more times this week, with this team on my mind, always.”

Read the full text of Kilar’s email to staff below:

With the pending transaction with Discovery nearing close, now is the right time to share with each of you that I will be departing this amazing company.

There are many feelings one could have in a moment like this, but for me there are none bigger, or more lasting, than the feelings of gratitude and love that I have for this team, this company, and this mission. I’ve never been more fulfilled professionally. I’ve never been happier professionally. This team — and what we’ve built together — are the reasons for that. We’re leading the industry creatively. We’ve elevated technology, product, and design to the highest levels in the company. We’re operating as one team, proudly and successfully going direct to consumers across the globe. It has been deeply gratifying to lean into the future alongside each of you and to do so with conviction.

The joys are many, especially the walk-and-talks that I’ve had with a great many WarnerMedia team members, diving deeply into the matters at hand, whether on the storied lot in Burbank, along The High Line at Hudson Yards, in and around Techwood and CNN Center, inside our archives, across the expansive lot at Leavesden, at any of our game studio locations, or the many other locations where this team quite literally changes the world. Apparently, word has gotten around that when Jason calls for a walk-and-talk, be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes!

For those of you that know me well (or follow me on Twitter), it comes as no surprise that I adore our history and the footprint we have as a company across the globe. I’ve done my best to visit and get to know as many of you as possible and to photographically document my love for this team and this company along the way via social media. So, when my wife Jamie and I were thinking about what we could do on our own to adequately express our appreciation to each of you, we came up with the idea to create a series of artifacts featuring some of the photos I’ve taken to celebrate this team and WarnerMedia. We’re inviting each of you to visit this website and choose an image that resonates…from the iconic Warner Bros. water tower, the gleaming towers of Hudson Yards, the virtual production stage in Leavesden, and several more. An artifact featuring that image (and a note from me on the back) will be shipped to you in the coming weeks. Our hope is that this memento will bring a smile and remind you of the important contributions we’ve made to the 99-year legacy of this extraordinary company.

Leading this team has been the honor of my lifetime. My heart is so full, and I am beyond thankful to each of you. There is no better team on the planet, and I will savor every last step as I wander the lot in Burbank several more times this week, with this team on my mind, always.

Jason