The chief executive and chairman of HBO, Richard Plepler, is leaving the company amid changing tides following a recent AT&T takeover of HBO’s parent company, Variety reported Thursday. His departure will mark the end of a nearly 30-year career with HBO, during which time the admired company head spearheaded and greenlit several of HBO’s defining projects.
Variety reported that the news was shared with staff through an internal memo in which Plepler wrote it was “the right time” for him to leave the company, adding that it’s been “a journey of great pride and accomplishment because so many of you, and many others before us, have made HBO a cultural and business phenomenon.” The memo continued:
It has been the great joy of my professional life to share this ride with you over these many years. And the great honour of my professional life to be your CEO. I don’t have the words to express my gratitude for the support and talent that made our success together possible. But suffice it to say, my love for this place, and for all of you, is deeply a part of me and will last a lifetime.
Plepler’s achievements during his nearly three decades at the company cannot be understated. Variety noted his influence in giving the go-ahead to such HBO powerhouses as Game of Thrones and Veep. He also had a hand in the development of HBO Go and HBO Now.
AT&T’s contentious merger with what was formerly Time Warner, HBO’s parent company, was secured last summer after the Department of Justice failed to prove that the deal would harm consumers. As Vanity Fair noted, news of Plepler’s departure arrives days after a federal appeals court approved AT&T’s multibillion-dollar acquisition. Neither WarnerMedia, as it’s now called, nor HBO immediately returned requests for comment.
The exit also comes as AT&T is preparing for the launch of its new streaming service, which will come equipped with HBO. An HBO source told Vanity Fair that Plepler’s departure is “bad news for AT&T, which will own the brand but not the talent.” And that could put AT&T in a tough spot as it braces to complete with virtually any other streaming service launching this year — and there are many, including one from Apple. So, that should be interesting.