The Panic in Zazworld

David Zaslav
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty
Dylan Byers
March 25, 2022

One year ago, David Zaslav, the C.E.O. of Discovery, and John Stankey, the C.E.O. of AT&T who oversaw its ill-advised conquest of the WarnerMedia assets, met for breakfast at a rented Greenwich Village townhouse to start formally discussing what would become one of the biggest media mergers of the decade. Two weeks from Monday, they will officially close that deal, giving birth to a new, Zaslav-led media giant with ambitions to rival the likes of Netflix and Disney. The close of the WarnerMedia-Discovery merger, and the launch of Warner Bros. Discovery, will take place on April 11, sources familiar with the matter tell me. Zaslav and his team are currently making plans to ring the bell on the Nasdaq stock exchange that morning.

While the creation of Warner Bros. Discovery is now guaranteed, the organization’s corporate structure remains a mystery—even to the vast majority of executives and high-level staff who are poised to be promoted, demoted, or kindly shown the door in the days and weeks after Zaslav takes the helm, sources at WarnerMedia and Discovery told me this week. In the absence of any clear information about the forthcoming org chart, current and future Zaslav lieutenants have adopted a game of high-anxiety telephone, frenzied tea-leaf reading, panic-texting, and trading whatever gossip they can pick up from friends and colleagues. Some even ask me what I’ve heard, as if I work in WBD H.R.

The rumor and speculation went into overdrive this week with the publication of an anonymous Reddit post purporting to show the company’s “potential leadership structure.” The document, I am reliably told, is mostly bullshit but not entirely off base. What makes it notable, in the absence of any better intel, is that it is being passed around and examined by many of the very same people whose names are mentioned within. Most of these folks recognize that there are aspects of the document that don’t make sense, and as highly-paid media executives, they all know that sharing a Reddit post is beneath them. They also know that whoever wrote it clearly appears to have some insight into Zaslav’s thinking and his general plans for how to run the organization. (A Discovery spokesperson declined to comment.) Ironically, the Newhouse family, which will own about 8 percent of the new Warner Bros Discovery lockup, is the majority owner of Reddit.