LOS ANGELES — Ann Sarnoff, the chief executive of the WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group, will leave the company, with an announcement this week, three people briefed on the matter said.
Ms Sarnoff, who declined to comment, was chosen to be Warner Bros. in 2019 despite limited Hollywood experience, becoming the first woman to hold the role. She is leaving because WarnerMedia, a division of AT&T, is about to complete a merger with Discovery. Ms Sarnoff’s boss Jason Kilar, who has served as chief executive of WarnerMedia since 2020, announced his departure on Tuesday.
Like Mr Kilar, Ms Sarnoff had no place in the musical chairs that come with the merger of competing companies, said the people briefed on the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential information. The management structure of Warner Bros. Discovery is still unknown, but David Zaslav, Discovery’s chief executive who will lead the new company, is expected to take over at least part of Ms Sarnoff’s portfolio. She has had a dozen direct reports.
Her job oversaw HBO and HBO Max; the Warner Bros. film and television studio; several cable channels, including TBS and TNT; and a large consumer products division. Breaking the isolated nature of some of those units was one of Mrs. Sarnoff’s achievements.
After news of her departure became public, Mr. Zaslav in an email that Ms Sarnoff had been “a passionate and dedicated steward,” with integrity, focus and hard work bringing WarnerMedia’s businesses, brands and workforce closer together.” In a private email, Mr. Kilar Mrs Sarnoff a ‘frontline person’ and ‘the definition of a selfless leader’.
Ms Sarnoff’s job security has been the subject of Hollywood gossip for months, with agents and Warner-affiliated producers insisting she was on her way out and some members of her team claiming the opposite. That kind of speculation can be deadly in show business, where whispers solidify into conventional wisdom, often resulting in an irreparable weakness in the eyes of Hollywood’s creative community.
To be fair, Mrs Sarnoff, smart and kind, never got a chance to really do her job. The pandemic shut down the entertainment business about seven months after it started. AT&T, which hired her, decided to spin off WarnerMedia last May.
Before joining WarnerMedia, Ms. Sarnoff held leadership positions at Nickelodeon, the Women’s National Basketball Association, Dow Jones and BBC America.