Phil Kent to Step Down as Turner CEO

John Martin to take the reins on Jan. 1

After a decade of running the ship at the country’s largest cable programming conglomerate, Phil Kent is stepping down as CEO of Turner Broadcasting System Inc.

Kent will stay on until the end of the year, whereupon chief financial officer John Martin will assume the helm. Once the transition has been completed, Kent will remain as chairman of the company until his contract expires in late 2014.

Kent joined Turner in 1993. He previously served as an agent at the talent firm Creative Artists Agency.

“Phil Kent’s exceptional leadership at Turner has driven much of Time Warner’s recent success,” said Time Warner chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes, by way of announcing the moves. “For the past decade, he has expertly guided the Turner networks through a period of rapid change, all the while building on each network’s leading position with viewers and advertisers and forging stronger relationships with distributors.”

Bewkes went on to say that Kent had initiated the changing of the guard. “He and I agreed that now is the right time to announce the next generation of leadership, and I am pleased that he will serve as chairman,” Bewkes said.

A former Wall Street analyst, Martin joined Turner in 2008. Prior to that, he had served as evp and chief financial officer of Time Warner Cable, which at that time was affiliated with Time Warner Inc.

Kent praised his successor-in-waiting, saying that Martin “has a thorough understanding of and respect for Turner’s position and significance in the Time Warner portfolio. He is highly regarded at Turner and will be a strong leader.”

Time Warner is expected to appoint a successor for Martin sometime within the next few weeks.

While some observers speculate that Martin is being prepped to succeed Bewkes, an overhaul at the corner office isn’t happening any time soon. Bewkes last November renewed his contract with Time Warner through 2017. 

Along with the premium cable service HBO, the Turner unit in 2012 generated $14.2 billion in revenue, marking a 4 percent improvement from the year-ago period. To better put that amount in context, the networks accounted for just under half (49 percent) of Time Warner’s total revenue haul.

TNT and TBS do much of the heavy lifting for Turner. The two basic-cable nets last year generated a combined $1.95 billion in ad sales revenue, and contributed another $2.09 billion in affiliate revenue, per SNL Kagan estimates.

Other networks in Turner’s arsenal include Cartoon Network, CNN, Adult Swim and truTV.

Along with Viacom, the Turner nets were among the first big cable properties to wrap their 2013-14 upfront business.

In early afternoon trading Wednesday, shares of TWX were up 0.46 percent, or 28 cents, to $61.57.