WarnerMedia CEO was reportedly 'kept in the dark' about $43 billion Discovery merger

WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar is reportedly eyeing an exit after the announcement of the company's merger with Discovery — which he reportedly only found out about recently. Kilar has "hired a legal team to negotiate his departure" as chief executive of WarnerMedia, a job he has held for about a year, The New York Times reported on Monday. The news came only hours after AT&T said it would spin off WarnerMedia, which owns HBO, Warner Bros., CNN, and more, and merge it with Discovery to create a new standalone company run by Discovery CEO David Zaslav. The idea was that the combined company would be better positioned to compete against the likes of Disney and Netflix, and Discovery's brands include HGTV, Food Network, and Animal Planet. The deal is expected to be finalized next year. But Kilar, the Times reports, was "kept in the dark about the deal until recent days." Zaslav told reporters on Monday that he and AT&T CEO John Stankey had met "secretly" over the past few months. Kilar's name was not mentioned in the AT&T press release announcing the $43 billion deal, and the Times reports that when Kilar sent a memo to employees about the "momentous news," he didn't mention anything about his future at the company. Kilar took over as the head of WarnerMedia in May 2020 after previously serving as Hulu's CEO. HBO Max, the new WarnerMedia streaming service, launched later that month. Kilar's reported plans to exit were revealed only three days after The Wall Street Journal published a profile of him, which described how he has "led one of the most radical overhauls in the entertainment industry" and opened by saying, "Jason Kilar might have a career as a tour guide if this WarnerMedia chief executive gig doesn't work out for him." More stories from theweek.com7 scathingly funny cartoons about Liz Cheney's ousterThe U.S. still has stricter mask policies for kids than EuropeFormer child star Ricky Schroder apologizes to Costco worker 'if I hurt your feelings' after mask confrontation

The winners and losers of AT&T's split with WarnerMedia

AT&T is unwinding a huge part of its $84 billion acquisition of Time Warner, less than three years after it closed.Driving the news: AT&T this morning announced that it will merge its WarnerMedia properties with Discovery Inc.'s media assets.Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with Axios Markets. Subscribe for freeAT&T's contributions will include cable networks CNN, TNN, TNT, Cartoon Network and HBO, plus streaming service HBO Max. Discovery's will include its Discovery-branded content, TLC, Food Network, Eurosport and its Discovery+ streaming service.The deal is expected to close in the middle of next year, via a joint venture that would have projected 2023 revenue of $52 billion and adjusted EBITDA of around $14 billion.The big winner is Elliott Management, the activist investor which last year took a $3.2 billion stake in AT&T and publicly argued that the Time Warner acquisition didn't make strategic sense.Elliott later signed a ceasefire with new AT&T CEO John Stankey, who agreed to spin off DirecTV via a deal with TPG Capital.There were reports in November that Elliott divested its AT&T stake, but my understanding is that it just sold off its small amount of common stock, but maintain most of its swaps. It subsequently purchased new common stock, to be reflected in a 13F being filed today.It does not appear that AT&T reached out to private equity firms to help buttress the deal.The big loser is former AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson. Not only were Time Warner and DirecTV his two biggest acquisitions, but his failed pursuit of T-Mobile triggered a massive termination fee that financially strengthened a smaller rival and arguably caused AT&T to sell off wireless spectrum.The big comp is Verizon, which also has a (relatively) new CEO who views networking as the crown jewel and content as a pricey distraction.The big note is how rushed this morning's announcement felt, despite some background insistence that it wasn't, per Axios media reporter Sara Fischer.They didn't announce the new company's name, instead saying they'll drop it "later this week."No disclosed decisions yet on if the two streaming services will be merged.Reporters had 30 minutes notice this morning of the Zoom call.No clarity on the future of WarnerMedia boss Jason Kilar, who was notably absent from the press release. Stankey simply said that Discovery CEO David Zaslav — who will run the new business — has lots of discussions ahead of him. The bottom line: Two things you can always count on after acquiring Time Warner are big controversy and big regrets.Like this article? Get more from Axios and subscribe to Axios Markets for free.