HBO Chief Steps Down at Time Warner's Request

HBO Chairman and Chief Executive Chris Albrecht said on Wednesday Time Warner asked him to step down, days after he was arrested on suspicion of assaulting his girlfriend.

Albrecht, 54, said in a statement he had "agreed to step down as chairman and CEO of Home Box Office" at the request of parent company Time Warner, a move that came the same day the Los Angeles Times reported his alleged involvement in a battery case 16 years ago.

"I take this step for the benefit of my Home Box Office colleagues, recognizing that I cannot allow my personal circumstances to distract them from the business," wrote Albrecht, a veteran at the network behind ground-breaking shows such as "Sex and the City," "Six Feet Under" and "The Sopranos".

A day earlier, Time Warner said it had granted Albrecht a paid leave of absence pending the resolution of his arrest on Sunday in Las Vegas stemming from an altercation with his girlfriend in the parking lot of the MGM Grand hotel.

Albrecht issued a statement then saying he had asked for time off to return to treatment through Alcoholics Anonymous of a recurring drinking problem.

But on Wednesday the Los Angeles Times reported that HBO in 1991 had paid a female staffer at least $400,000 to settle allegations of battery involving Albrecht.

Two people familiar with the matter confirmed that HBO paid a settlement of more than $400,000 to a staffer who had accused Albrecht of assaulting her. One of the sources said no criminal charges or lawsuit was ever filed in the case.

Citing two sources familiar with the details, the newspaper said Time Warner President Jeffrey Bewkes, who has been tipped to become chief executive of Time Warner next year when Richard Parsons retires, oversaw the settlement.

A Time Warner spokesman declined to elaborate on a company statement about Albrecht's departure. In the statement Parsons thanked Albrecht for his service. "Jeff Bewkes and I believe that this is the right decision for the company," Parsons added.

The cable TV network paid the 1991 settlement to a subordinate with whom Albrecht was romantically involved after she alleged he had shoved and choked her, the LA Times reported, citing four people with knowledge of the matter.

A lawyer for Albrecht was not immediately available for comment. Albrecht's spokesman declined to comment further.

Albrecht was booked into the Clark County, Nevada, jail early on Sunday on suspicion of domestic battery. He was released shortly thereafter.

Albrecht, a former New York City nightclub proprietor and talent agent, joined HBO in 1985 as a senior vice president, and he became chairman and CEO of the network in July 2002.

Albrecht's departure comes nearly a year after Time Warner ended a review of the conduct of Chief Financial Officer Wayne Pace, who was named as a client by a Brazilian woman accused of running a high-priced brothel in New York. The company in June said it found no evidence of illegal conduct or misuse of corporate assets by Pace.