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Kevin Tsujihara is named CEO of Warner Bros.

He has been president of Warner Bros.' home entertainment unit and will become the first Asian American to run a major Hollywood studio.

January 28, 2013|By Meg James and Ben Fritz, Los Angeles Times

Despite early misgivings by some in his company, Tsujihara championed the migration of content to the Internet and mobile devices. He helped negotiate a series of lucrative deals with the film and TV delivery service Netflix.

"Kevin has been managing the very delicate life cycles of new media and old revenue models and this move is in recognition of that success," said Ted Sarandos, Netflix's chief content officer.

Tsujihara was also deeply involved in the complex negotiations that breathed life into "The Hobbit" when it was caught in a web of seemingly intractable problems, including the bankruptcy of co-rights owner Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Then came an awkward switch in movie directors from Guillermo del Toro to Peter Jackson, and labor problems in New Zealand, where the feature was shot.

"Kevin is a brilliant executive and great partner who was critical in working with the prime minister of New Zealand, Peter Jackson and MGM to make 'The Hobbit' happen," said Gary Barber, MGM's chief executive.

The first of three planned "Hobbit" movies was released by Warner in December and has grossed more than $900 million worldwide.

The two other candidates offered their support in separate statements.

Rosenblum was long seen by studio insiders as the favorite to win the job. Warner Bros. had a tradition of promoting television executives to the chairman job and Rosenblum was Meyer's longtime deputy. He is expected to stay with the company at least until August, when his current contract ends.

"Obviously, I'm disappointed; who wouldn't be?" Rosenblum said. "Warner Bros. is a unique and special place and it will be in good hands with Kevin at the helm."

"I am truly happy and proud of Kevin," Robinov said. "The company will be in great shape under his leadership."

The historic Burbank company, founded in 1923 by brothers Jack, Harry, Sam and Albert Warner, has traditionally been one of the industry's most stable. It's that genteel culture that Jeff Bewkes, CEO of parent company Time Warner, and Meyer sought to preserve.

"The Warner Bros. culture is one of respect," said Bob Daly, who was chairman of the studio from 1980 until 1999. "That quality was instilled in all of us — always be respectful of each other and listen to people."

Tsujihara, according to some outside the company, comes from that tradition.

"He hasn't been polarizing in his job. People like him," said Patrick Whitesell, co-chief executive of William Morris Endeavor talent agency.

One of the knocks against Tsujihara is his lack of hands-on experience in film and television production. But Whitesell said that is not a liability.

"Warner's has great depth on the movie side and similarly so in television," Whitesell said. "So, he's got great people there and just has to keep letting them do their jobs."

Ron Meyer, the longtime head of rival Universal Studios, agreed.

"Kevin is a superb businessman and certainly at the forefront of new technology for the industry, but nobody comes into one of these jobs knowing everything that you need to," he said. "We all go through a learning curve."

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Kevin Tsujihara

Age: 48

New job: Chief executive, Warner Bros. Entertainment

Career: Founded an online tax filing company before joining Warner in 1994; chief executive of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment since 2005

Education: Bachelor's in business administration from USC; MBA from Stanford

Family: Married with two children

Personal: The Petaluma, Calif., native is an avid sports fan and a supporter of the San Francisco Giants

meg.james@latimes.com

ben.fritz@latimes.com

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