Warner Bros.' Tsujihara steps down following scandal

NEW YORK (AP) — Warner Bros. chief Kevin Tsujihara, one of the highest ranking Hollywood executives to be felled by sexual misconduct allegations, stepped down from the studio Monday following claims that he promised roles to an actress in exchange for sex.

WarnerMedia chief executive John Stankey announced Tsujihara's exit as chairman and chief executive of Warner Bros., saying his departure was in the studio's "best interest."

"Kevin has contributed greatly to the studio's success over the past 25 years and for that we thank him," said Stankey. "Kevin acknowledges that his mistakes are inconsistent with the company's leadership expectations and could impact the company's ability to execute going forward."

Earlier this month, WarnerMedia launched an investigation after a March 6 Hollywood Reporter story detailed text messages between Tsujihara and British actress Charlotte Kirk going back to 2013. The messages suggested a quid pro quo sexual relationship between the aspiring actress and the studio head in which he made promises that he'd introduce her to influential executives and she'd be considered for roles in movies and television.

In a memo to Warner Bros. staff on Monday obtained by The Associated Press, Tsujihara said he was departing "after lengthy introspection, and discussions with John Stankey over the past week."

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HOLLYWOOD, CA - AUGUST 15: Chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment Kevin Tsujihara attends the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' 'War Dogs' at TCL Chinese Theatre on August 15, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
BURBANK, CA - OCTOBER 13: Kevin Tsujihara and wife Sandy Tsujihara arrive at FCancer's 1st Annual Barbara Berlanti Heroes Gala at Warner Bros. Studios on October 13, 2018 in Burbank, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: Kevin Tsujihara (R) attends HBO's Post Emmy Awards Reception at the Plaza at the Pacific Design Center on September 17, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 12: Chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment Kevin Tsujihara attends the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' 'Aquaman' at TCL Chinese Theatre on December 12, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - MAY 25: (L-R) Chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment Kevin Tsujihara, actor Gal Gadot and President and Chief Content Officer, Warner Bros. Pictures Group Toby Emmerich attend the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' 'Wonder Woman' at the Pantages Theatre on May 25, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 07: Kevin Tsujihara and Ken Kamins attend the Warner Bros. premiere of 'They Shall Not Grow Old' at Linwood Dunn Theater at the Pickford Center for Motion Study on December 07, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
SUN VALLEY, ID - JULY 11: Kevin Tsujihara, chairman and chief executive officer of Warner Bros. Entertainment, arrives for a morning session of the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 11, 2018 in Sun Valley, Idaho. Every July, some of the world's most wealthy and powerful businesspeople from the media, finance, technology and political spheres converge at the Sun Valley Resort for the exclusive weeklong conference. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 05: Sandy Tsujihara and Kevin Tsujihara attend the world premiere of 'Ocean's 8' at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center on June 5, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 12: Chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment Kevin Tsujihara attends the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' 'Tomb Raider' at TCL Chinese Theatre on March 12, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
WESTWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Kevin Tsujihara attends the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' 'The LEGO Ninjago Movie' on September 16, 2017 in Westwood, California. (Photo by JB Lacroix/ WireImage)
WESTWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 04: Kevin Tsujihara attends the Premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' 'The LEGO Batman Movie' at the Regency Village Theatre on February 4, 2017 in Westwood, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 08: Sandy Tsujihara and Kevin Tsujihara attend the 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 8, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Todd Williamson/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - OCTOBER 14: Chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Pictures Kevin Tsujihara (R) and wife Sandy Tsujihara attend the 30th Annual American Cinematheque Awards Gala at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on October 14, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - OCTOBER 14: Chairman of Warner Bros. Entertainment Kevin Tsujihara arrives at the 30th Annual American Cinematheque Awards Gala at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on October 14, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
BURBANK, CA - AUGUST 29: Chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment Kevin Tsujihara attends the premiere of 'Queen Sugar' at Warner Bros. Studios on August 29, 2016 in Burbank, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 10: Chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment Kevin Tsujihara attends at RatPac Entertainment Hosts Special Event for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at Hillhaven Lodge on August 10, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)
CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment Kevin Tsujihara attends the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' 'The Legend Of Tarzan' at TCL Chinese Theatre on June 27, 2016 in Hollywood, California.
HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 27: Margot Robbie, Warner Bros' Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Tsujihara attend the premiere Of Warner Bros. Pictures' 'The Legend Of Tarzan' at TCL Chinese Theatre on June 27, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Todd Williamson/Getty Images)
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"It has become clear that my continued leadership could be a distraction and an obstacle to the company's continued success," said Tsujihara. "The hard work of everyone within our organization is truly admirable, and I won't let media attention on my past detract from all the great work the team is doing."

Tsujihara's attorney, Bert Deixler, said Tsujihara had no further comment. Tsujihara, who has headed the Burbank, California, studio since 2013, earlier apologized to Warner Bros. staff for "mistakes in my personal life that have caused pain and embarrassment to the people I love the most."

WarnerMedia, the studio's parent company, said Monday that its investigation into the situation, carried out by a third-party law firm, is continuing.

Kirk appeared in Warner Bros.' "How to Be Single" in 2016 and "Ocean's 8" in 2018. She has denied any inappropriate behavior on the part of Tsujihara or two other executives, Brett Ratner and James Packer, who she communicated with. "Mr. Tsujihara never promised me anything," Kirk said in an earlier statement.

The scandal unfolded just as Warner Bros. was restructuring on the heels of AT&T's takeover of WarnerMedia, previously known as Time Warner. Tsujihara's role had just been expanded on Feb. 28 to include global kids and family entertainment.

Tsujihara, 54, has presided over a largely positive Warner Bros. era with little fanfare. A former home video and video game executive at the company, he has leaned heavily on franchise creation, some of which have worked, some of which haven't.

After poor marks from fans and critics, the studio's DC Comics films have recently been retooled and found their footing in hits like "Wonder Woman" and "Aquaman." Other franchises — like "The Lego Movie" and the "Harry Potter" spinoff "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" — have sputtered in their latest incarnations. The studio has also fostered its connection with filmmakers like Christopher Nolan ("Dunkirk") and Bradley Cooper (whose "A Star Is Born" was Warner Bros.' top Oscar contender).

Warner Bros. will now begin a search for a new studio chief as it also prepare to launch a streaming service designed to compete with Netflix.

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