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HBO CEO Richard Plepler is out amid a broad restructuring of the company under new parent AT&T, according to an internal memo obtained by CNBC.
Plepler had been at HBO for nearly three decades and led the company as it became one of the market leaders in streaming video on demand. AT&T's purchase of Time Warner earlier this year spurred reports of a culture clash between the telecom giant and its newly acquired media assets.
Shortly after the merger closed, media reports pitted the head of the newly named Warner Media, John Stankey, against HBO incumbents, saying Stankey was angling for larger content volume out of the company.
"Hard as it is to think about leaving the company I love, and the people I love in it, it is the right time for me to do so," Plepler said in the memo. "In the past weeks, I've thought a lot about the incredible journey of this company in the nearly 28 years that I have been blessed to be here."
In a statement to CNBC, Stankey said, "Richard is one of the most successful executives in our industry and I have been fortunate to have his support over the last months. His vision, energy and passion helped to elevate HBO's brand to what it has become today. Richard's impact to our business and on the passionate viewers of HBO's enduring programming will continue to be felt for years."
Plepler is leaving in part because he would have seen less autonomy under the new structure, according to a person familiar with the transition. Plepler is still working out the exact timing of the transition, the person said, but chafed at the prospect of a larger company and more oversight.
It's notable timing for such an executive exit. HBO is increasingly facing competition in the premium content streaming space and in original programming. Streaming companies like Netflix and Hulu and media giants like Disney and Comcast-owned NBCUniversal are all eyeing market share.
AT&T is planning a new, separate streaming service anchored by HBO content to launch later this year.
Here's Plepler's memo:
My dad always gave the best advice. Whenever there was a difficult decision to make, he counseled that since no one could ever have perfect visibility into the future, the best thing you could do was trust your instincts. It has been a touchstone for me throughout my life, and I have found myself returning to it again recently as I think about what is an inflection point in the life of this wonderful company. Hard as it is to think about leaving the company I love, and the people I love in it, it is the right time for me to do so.
In the past weeks, I've thought a lot about the incredible journey of this company in the nearly 28 years that I have been blessed to be here. It's a journey of great pride and accomplishment because so many of you, and many others before us, have made HBO a cultural and business phenomenon. Thanks to all of you, we are today churning on all cylinders both creatively and as a business. Thanks to all of you, I can move on to the next chapter of my life knowing that the best team in the industry remains here to carry on our continued progress and success. As I have said before, this is the team of teams.
It has been the great joy of my professional life to share this ride with you over these many years. And the great honor of my professional life to be your CEO. I don't have the words to express my gratitude for the support and talent that made our success together possible. But suffice it to say, my love for this place, and for all of you, is deeply a part of me and will last a lifetime. I look forward over the coming weeks to thanking as many of you as I can for the thousands of contributions big and small that have made "this thing of ours," to quote Tony Soprano, so special. I have told John, who has been nothing but gracious since we spoke, that I would work closely with him to assure a seamless and organic transition.
We've created a great and unique enterprise and I know that you will protect its legacy and do all to enhance its future in the years to come. Know that I will always be cheering loudly, even when I am outside this building, as HBO continues to thrive.
With respect, admiration, and gratitude,