According to one intimate, Levin, the now-retired AOL Time Warner CEO, never forgave Bewkes for sidestepping the challenge of running Warner Bros. when the company's longtime chiefs Bob Daly and Terry Semel left in 1999. (Others dispute whether Bewkes was ever offered the Warner post.) Levin, who bypassed Bewkes when he was looking for his own successor, couldn't be reached.
Perhaps because of his front-row seat during the merger turmoil, Bewkes shows no patience for those who violate his sense of order. The effect in at least two cases, associates say, has been to undercut productive managers who seemed to mimic Bewkes' own directness but also were seen as overstepping their bounds.
After Bewkes took charge in July, Warner Production Chief Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who helped secure billions of dollars by fostering such franchises as "The Matrix" and "Harry Potter," clashed with Warner President Alan Horn. In New York for a late-summer film premiere, Di Bonaventura called on Bewkes. On returning to Los Angeles, he was pushed out of the company, with Bewkes' assent, by Horn and Warner Chairman Barry Meyer. Di Bonaventura, now a producer, declined to comment on his departure, as did Meyer.
A few months later, Meyer fired Warren Lieberfarb, the legendary and difficult Warner home video chief who boosted profits across the industry by pioneering the DVD and using it to make movies a retail commodity.