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Warner Bros Discovery merger completed with leadership shakeup

Warner Bros Discovery merger completed with leadership shakeup
WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar arrives on the red carpet at the 15th Annual CNN Heroes: All-Star Tribute at the American Museum of Natural History on Dec. 12, 2021, in New York City. Kilar will not be continuing with Warner Bros Discovery. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

April 8 (UPI) -- The megamerger between the prestige Hollywood company WarnerMedia and the reality TV and documentary giant Discovery completed Friday, creating a new titan in the entertainment industry.

The new company, which is called Warner Bros Discovery, came as a result of WarnerMedia's former owner AT&T seeking to offload billions in debt, according to a press release from the telecommunications company.

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AT&T received $40.4 billion in cash and Warner Bros Discovery assumed about $55 billion in debt from the merger, the companies have said.

The standalone Warner Bros Discovery company will begin trading on Monday with the new Nasdaq ticker symbol WBD. AT&T shareholders retained their common stock and received a pool of 1.7 billion shares of the new WBD common stock.

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David Zaslav, who has been the CEO of Discovery since 2006, will serve as the chief executive of the new Warner Bros Discovery company.

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Jason Kilar, CEO of WarnerMedia, will not be joining the new company but said in posts made to Twitter on his last day with the company Friday that he has "never been more fulfilled professionally" and praised his employees who are "leading the industry right now."

"One of the greatest joys of my role has been championing, rooting for, materially increasing investment in, and celebrating stories well told and the creative teams and talented visionaries behind them," he said.

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Kilar, the architect of the company's HBO Max streaming platform, added that the secrets to WarnerMedia's success was investing in more diverse teams and stories -- noting that 47% of the company's employees are now female and 41% are people of color.

"Everyone knows that change can be v hard but it is a reality of this world and I am so proud that this team has leaned into needed change the past few years. WarnerMedia used to be a holding company with four businesses that did not collaborate. It was largely a wholesaler," he said.

"Today, WarnerMedia is a singular operating company with a powerful mission to move the world through story and a clearly articulated strategy."

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Zaslav announced the new leadership roles at Warner Bros Discovery in a statement ahead of the completed merger, though additional appointments and changes are expected to be made in coming months.

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"We are so excited to bring the heritage and legacies of these two great companies together by creating Warner Bros Discovery, and I am proud that our new executive management team blends world-class leaders from both organizations as we take our first step toward one single cohesive, collaborative culture," he said.

"Today's announcement combines a strong team of professional managers in a simpler organizational structure, with fewer layers, more accountability and a singular strategic focus as a global pure-play content company. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves with this team so that, together, we can write this next exciting chapter."

The merger sets up Warner Bros Discovery to take on Netflix in streaming as the company is anticipated to combine its Discovery Plus and HBO Max streaming services.

Discovery's networks include its namesake channel as well as HGTV, the Food Network, TLC and Animal Planet among others while WarnerMedia's brands include HBO, CNN, Cartoon Network and DC Comics.

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