Jordan Levin’s abrupt departure from his gig as CEO of The WB, only weeks after he was promoted to the post, is still sending shock waves through the industry.
The buzz is that Levin’s exit was the result of a longstanding power struggle between him and Bruce Rosenblum, executive vice president of Warner Bros. Television Group.Another factor: WB Chairman Garth Ancier. “Garth thinks it’s time for new thinking and risk-taking, to take The WB to the next level,” says a producer who has worked with Ancier and Levin.Yet when WB founder Jamie Kellner announced last September that he would retire in May, he passed the leadership mantle to Levin, who’d been with The WB since its inception a decade ago. It was a decision endorsed by Jeff Bewkes, chairman of Time Warner’s entertainment and networks group.A big supporter of Levin’s, Bewkes understood the value of the WB executive’s strong rapport with the creative community.There was less enthusiasm from Rosenblum and his boss and ally Warner Bros. Chairman and CEO Barry Meyer. And it didn’t help that the WB took a big ratings hit last season or that Levin and Rosenblum had clashed “on style and creative matters,” according to a WB insider. Friends of Kellner say he hoped Levin would build a separate relationship with Meyer, thereby securing his future. But Rosenblum remained an obstacle between the two. According to one studio insider, Levin tried to set up meetings with Meyer-only to have Rosenblum take them. Also, it was Rosenblum who often ended up mediating disagreements between Levin and Ancier.Without Kellner as protector, Levin, who reported to Meyer, was vulnerable. When it was suggested that Levin stay, but in his old job as entertainment presidency, the offer didn’t fly. “Notice how quickly they had [new WB Entertainment President] David Janollari teed up,” says an insider. “They knew [Levin] would never take the demotion.”Insiders say morale at The WB took a dive when Levin got the boot. Once the trigger was pulled, several key Time Warner execs, including Bewkes, were upset about his departure. “There was an 11th-hour push to find a way to get Levin to stay in some capacity. Bewkes badly wanted him on the reservation,” says the producer. “But it was too late.”