CEO steps down as Warner Bros probes his role in helping actress

Kevin Tsujihara is the latest in a line of executives to lose their jobs in the media business following accusations of improper conduct or sexual harassment. PHOTO: AFP

BURBANK (REUTERS) - Kevin Tsujihara has resigned as the head of Warner Bros as one of Hollywood's most powerful studios investigates a report that he improperly helped an actress obtain roles at the studio.

He is the latest in a line of executives to lose their jobs in the media business following accusations of improper conduct or sexual harassment.

"It is in the best interest of WarnerMedia, Warner Bros, our employees and our partners for Kevin to step down as Chairman and CEO of Warner Bros," WarnerMedia Chief Executive John Stankey said in a statement on Monday.

Tsujihara's departure from the AT&T Inc-owned studio follows a March 6 article in the Hollywood Reporter that said an actress had sought his help in landing roles after they had sex.

The report included text messages between Tsujihara and the actress that appeared to reveal they had sex. Tsujihara has not directly addressed his relationship with the actress, whether they had sex, nor his involvement in helping her career.

"Kevin acknowledges that his mistakes are inconsistent with the company's leadership expectations and could impact the company's ability to execute going forward," Stankey said in his statement.

Stankey did not specify what mistakes Tsujihara made. Only two days before the Hollywood Reporter published its story, Tsujihara was given an expanded, more powerful role as part of a restructuring of AT&T's WarnerMedia.

"It has become clear that my continued leadership could be a distraction and an obstacle to the company's continued success," Tsujihara said in an email to employees on Monday, which was seen by Reuters.

"The hard work of everyone within our organisation is truly admirable, and I won't let media attention on my past detract from all the great work the team is doing."

Tsujihara did not address why he was leaving in the email.

Earlier this month, following the Hollywood Reporter story, Tsujihara's attorney said the executive did not have a direct role in the hiring of the actress in any movie.

AT&T is continuing to work with an outside law firm to complete its investigation into the matter, Stankey said.

That would be the third investigation, two sources familiar with the situation told Reuters, and was sparked by the Hollywood Reporter article, which included text messages between the executive, the actress and two business partners.

Tsujihara was cleared in two previous internal investigations related to the matter since late 2017, the sources said. The first, conducted by Time Warner, was initiated at Tsujihara's request, the sources said, and the second was conducted by AT&T.

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