Chris Albrecht is gone as chairman and CEO of HBO, a spokesman for parent Time Warner confirms, with COO Bill Nelson taking over until a new CEO can be named.
The move came a day after Albrecht had agreed to take a leave of absence and seek treatment after being arrested in Las Vegas on Sunday morning on misdemeanor charges for allegedly assaulting a woman believed to be his girlfriend. Albrecht had said Tuesday he was taking the leave to work with Alcoholics Anonymous.
In an internal memo to the colleagues announcing the leave, Albrecht, the former stand-up comic who helped turn HBO from a home for movies into one for moving, funny, and provocative original programming,.had said he was "deeply sorry for what occurred in Las Vegas this weekend for any embarrassment it caused my family, the company I love, and myself."
He said he has been a sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous for 13 years, that leading HBO is a privilege, and he thanked colleagues for their support. "Two years ago, I decided I could handle drinking again," he said. "Clearly, I was wrong."
Apparently, HBO couldn't handle a story that surfaced Wednesday in theL.A, Timesthat Albrecht had physically assaulted a woman in 1991 over a breakup, with Time Warner having to pay a large settlement to the woman.
“With great regret, at the request of Time Warner, I have agreed to step down as chairman and CEO of Home Box Office," Albrecht said in a statement released late Wednesday. "I take this step for the benefit of my Home Box Office colleagues, recognizing that I cannot allow my personal circumstances to distract them from the business.I’m very proud of what we have achieved together at Home Box Office, and I wish everybody there many more successes in the future.” Time Warner Chairman and CEO Richard D. Parsons, who had pledged to closely monitor the situation after the initial arrest, said: “[Time Warner President] Jeff Bewkes and I believe that this is the right decision for the Company.We thank Chris for all of his contributions to Home Box Office over the years.”Speculation had already begun on a permanent successor. The early buzz centered on HBO Film President Colin Callender. Another name is NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly. Even though he recently re-upped with the network, some think he could find a way to get out of that contract, and any noncompete clause, because HBO may not be considered a direct competitor to a broadcast network.
It may also help, contractually, that the HBO job is not an entertainment chief, but a CEO post.