A day after reports surfaced that AT&T brass was in advanced talks to bring former NBC Entertainment chief Robert Greenblatt on to run a new unit within its WarnerMedia programming division, HBO CEO Richard Plepler has told the company that he plans to step down.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, WarnerMedia chief John Stankey was in advanced talks with Greenblatt to run a combined unit within the programmer that would include HBO and the Turner networks. While Greenblatt is a well respected executive, his appointment would create a new layer of management between Plepler and Turner honcho David Levy and Stankey. Some had speculated that could cause those executives to look at other opportunities.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Levy also is resigning.
Plepler, who has been with HBO since 1992, has been a driving force in HBO’s success since he took the helm of the premium programmer in 2012. Under his watch, HBO has won a warehouse full of Emmy awards, launched a steady stream of successful and popular original shows — including the iconic Game of Thrones — and launched its standalone streaming service HBO Now.
Sources familiar with the company confirmed a report by CNBC that Plepler was indeed stepping down. In a memo released to employees Thursday, Plepler referenced advice his father gave him in making tough decisions.
“Whenever there was a difficult decision to make, he counseled that since no one could ever have perfect visibility into the future, the best thing you could do was trust your instincts,” Plepler wrote according to CNBC. “...Hard as it is to think about leaving the company I love, and the people I love in it, it is the right time for me to do so.”
Over the years Plepler has cultivated a unique relationship with artists and executives alike. In an email exchange with Game of Thrones writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss last year, the pair saw Plepler as a highly engaged executive who takes his relationship with artists seriously.
“In a business full of smiling windsocks, he is not a windsock,” Benioff and Weiss said in the email exchange. “He doesn't focus test his decisions, he doesn't crowdsource his decisions. Richard's decisions come from Richard, and he stands by them.”