With Time Warner slated to take over Court TV, network CEO Henry Schleiff plans to exit the company in part because he doesn’t see any slot in Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting unit.
Schleiff, who orchestrated a dramatic turnaround after taking the reigns at Court TV in 1998, had sought a continuing role. But the network is becoming part of a unit of Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting System, and Schleiff didn’t see any particular fit.
One industry executive who knows Schleiff says the executive was accustomed to working directly with Time Warner President Jeff Bewkes and wasn’t particularly interested in reporting up through the chain of command at TBS.
Schleiff stands to profit handsomely from his exit. His contract gives him a piece of the increase in Court TV’s value since it arrived. The entire network was worth perhaps $600 million in 1998 and as much as $1.8 billion today.
Time Warner has long been a 50-50 partner in Court TV with Liberty Media. But Liberty is expected to exercise a “put” option requiring Time Warner to purchase it’s half.
Time Warner executives acknowledge they’re close to a deal. In the company’s earning conference call Wednesday, Bewkes said: “We've been instrumental in building it for the last 10 years. And we will preserve the strengths over at Court TV in our people there to continue to increase the strength of the programming, the original programming, and the marketing.
“Having said that, there are clearly some improvements in the business we can make by using some of the Turner capabilities in either back-office in terms of costs or distribution in terms of affiliate representation. So that would, we think, increase the competitive power of Court TV, including the financial results.”