Warner Bros. names BBC's Ann Sarnoff CEO, the first woman to hold the title

Warner Bros. has named its new CEO three months after former CEO Kevin Tsujihara stepped down amid sexual misconduct allegations.

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Ann Sarnoff, currently the president of BBC Studios Americas, was named as the movie studio’s new chair and CEO on Monday. She is the first woman to lead Warner Bros. since it was started 96 years ago.

Many had expected WarnerMedia to turn to an experienced film executive like movie-division head Toby Emmerich, who was part of the interim committee running the studio after Tsujihara's departure, Disney veteran Anne Sweeney or former Fox chief Stacey Snider.

But to the surprise of much of the industry, WarnerMedia turned to Sarnoff, who has worked primarily in television. She has previously been a top TV executive at Viacom and with the WNBA.

"She brings a consistent and proven track record of innovation, creativity and business results to lead an incredibly successful studio to its next chapter of growth," John Stankey, CEO of WarnerMedia, said in a statement. "Ann has shown the ability to innovate and grow revenues and has embraced the evolution taking place in our industry."

Ann Sarnoff has been named as Warner Bros. new chair and CEO months after former studio chief Kevin Tsujihara departed over misconduct allegations. Sarnoff is the first woman to lead the 96-year-old Warner Bros. company. (WarnerMedia via AP)

In March, Tsujihara stepped down following claims that he promised roles to an actress with whom he was having an affair. Tsujihara, whose attorney denied that Tsujihara had any direct role in the woman's hiring, said he was departing to avoid being a distraction.

The rupture came at an awkward time for WarnerMedia, which had just expanded Tsujihara's role at the global conglomerate. AT&T last year acquired Time Warner Inc., which was renamed WarnerMedia, and the company is planning to launch a streaming service later this year.

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In Warner Bros., Sarnoff takes over one of the most storied studios in Hollywood. In recent years, the Walt Disney Co. has surpassed Warner Bros. as the market leader, sliding the famed studio to an increasingly distant second. Warner Bros. this year has continued the turnaround of its DC Comics films with "Shazam!" though its big summer movie, "Godzilla: King of Monsters," underperformed at the box office.

According to the company statement, Sarnoff will join the company later this summer.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.