- Following complaints from David Zaslav, editors at the Condé Nast-owned GQ magazine have removed an article exposing the Warner Bros. Discovery CEO to – however well-deserved – ridicule. So far, it remains unclear whether the decision was merely craven or downright corrupt.
- But not to worry: GQ’s David Zaslav article has been preserved for posterity elsewhere online.
Bowing to Power, GQ editors chose to remove a critical opinion piece from the magazine’s website rather than offend Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav
The most despised (non-Hollywood) legacy media moguls – at least for non-fascists – are indisputably Fox Corporation Chairman of the Board Rupert Murdoch and his CEO son Lachlan Murdoch. The most despised social media mogul is undoubtedly Tesla/Twitter’s Elon Musk, with Meta/Facebook’s (and now Threads’) Mark Zuckerberg a close second. On to Hollywood, where the most despised mogul is hands down Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav.
In his July 3 GQ piece “How Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav Became Public Enemy Number One in Hollywood,” freelance film critic Jason Bailey provided several reasons as to why Zaslav’s tenure at Warner Bros. Discovery – the company formed in April 2022, when AT&T subsidiary WarnerMedia was merged with Discovery, Inc. – has been such an abhorrent disaster.
These ranged from the murder of Batgirl and the drowning of Scoob!: Holiday Haunt for tax purposes and the various idiotic missteps at what used to be HBO Max (now downsized to just Max in the U.S.) to the recent wholesale firings at the beloved U.S. cable channel Turner Classic Movies and the proposed sale of (unspecified) rights to nearly half of Warners’ film and television music catalog.
For illustrative purposes, Bailey compared Zaslav to Brian Cox’s Rupert Murdoch-inspired ogre Logan Roy in Succession and to Richard Gere’s corporate raider Edward Lewis in Pretty Woman. The author also reminded his readers that Zaslav’s Discovery reign was marked by the company’s increased focus on “reality slop” like Naked and Afraid, Dr. Pimple Popper, and My 600-lb Life, and that the CEO’s current imperial edicts show him to be “only good at breaking things.”
Surprisingly, left unmentioned was the torpedoing – in terms of both ratings and reputation – of the already battered cable news network CNN, which Zaslav’s handpicked man, Chris Licht (finally given the boot last month), wanted to turn into a more right-wing-friendly outlet.
And had the article been written this past week, Bailey might have included the social media panic that has ensued after the Watch TCM app stopped updating movies on July 1. Is David Zaslav killing it?
(According to TCM’s Twitter account, an outage – or “error” – has prevented the addition of new titles to various Warner Bros. Discovery apps, which has led to social media speculation that Zaslav’s indiscriminate cost-cutting actions are to blame.)
Why the past tense?
Now, wasn’t GQ’s David Zaslav piece published just recently? Why use the past tense?
Yes, Bailey’s article was published less than a week ago. However, it’s no longer available on the GQ website. In fact, hours after its July 3 publication, the article was gone. Hence the past tense. (A copy can be found here.)
As first reported by Roger Friedman at Showbiz411.com, and later in more detail by The Washington Post’s Will Sommer, it looks like David Zaslav didn’t like to see himself compared to Logan Roy and Edward Lewis. Or to be labeled a creator of “reality slop.”
As a result, GQ editors got to work on “How Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav Became Public Enemy Number One in Hollywood,” either rewriting or removing the passages that Zaslav found unflattering. The end result was something that might as well have been retitled “How Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav Became Number One in Hollywood.”
After seeing the changes, Bailey requested that his name be removed from the article. Without a byline, GQ editors pulled the piece.
Why would GQ editors opt to destroy their publication’s journalistic reputation?
As per GQ – believe them at your own risk – Bailey’s article was worked on because it had not been “properly edited before going live.” Shifting the blame to the author, the GQ spokesperson added, “GQ regrets the editorial error that [led] to a story being published before it was ready.”
As per Warner Bros. Discovery, Bailey had never contacted the company for comment (never mind the fact that he didn’t have to, as he was writing an opinion piece) and all they wanted was that “numerous inaccuracies be corrected.” Like, apparently, David Zaslav being compared to Logan Roy. Or a Julia Roberts line from Pretty Woman being used in reference to corporate fiends like Zaslav and Gere’s Edward Lewis, “So [what you do is] sort of like stealing cars and selling them for the parts, right?”
But why would GQ risk its journalistic reputation by bowdlerizing and then pulling a story because it personally offended a powerful media mogul?
The answer may be a simple one that has nothing to do with either journalism or “inaccuracies.”
It’s all interconnected
First of all, bear in mind that GQ owner Condé Nast is itself owned by Advance Publications, which, as it happens, is a major Warner Bros. Discovery shareholder.
And then there’s the report by Variety’s Tatiana Siegel, asserting that GQ editor-in-chief Will Welch was involved in the post-publication editorial work done on Bailey’s article and its eventual removal. Minor detail: Welch is a producer on the movie The Great Chinese Art Heist at … Warner Bros.
With Crazy Rich Asians and In the Heights filmmaker Jon M. Chu attached to direct and (co-)produce, the high-profile Chinese art heist thriller is based on a 2018 GQ article by Alex W. Palmer.
As per one of Variety’s Warner Bros. Discovery sources, “no one at the corporate level was aware of Welch’s ties to the movie studio.” Be that as it may, Welch himself surely knew of his own Warner Bros. ties. As of this writing, he remains at his GQ post.
GQ article aside, David Zaslav is doing just fine
A little extra context: Under David Zaslav’s leadership, Warner Bros. Discovery has lost half its stock value ($12.54 per share on July 7) since its April 2022 formation. At the end of this year’s first quarter, the company owed a whopping $49.5 billion. (In March 2022, Deadline.com explained that Discovery had raised $30 billion “in senior unsecured notes in a debt offering to raise cash for its merger.”)
That gaping hole has not been attenuated by recent costly box office bombs like DC’s The Flash and Shazam! Fury of the Gods, and, even if on a lesser scale, Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike’s Last Dance.
Hence Zaslav’s decision to get rid of a significant chunk of the staff at TCM and other Warner Bros. Discovery cable television properties, not to mention the earlier decimation of a quarter of the workforce at Warner Bros. Television, in addition to 14 percent of the HBO/HBO Max programming staff and hundreds of CNN employees.
But no need to fret over Zaslav’s financial well being. Between 2018–2022, the CEO earned the sum of $498,915,318 (including stock options and other forms of compensation) – or, as per CNBC, about 384 times the average pay of a Hollywood writer. In 2022 alone, Warner Bros. Discovery shoved $39.3 million Zaslav’s way.
Also doing just fine are Warner Bros. Discovery’s top executives, who, after all the thousands of layoffs, received millionaire bonuses for their efforts.
Piranha eats piranha
Now, where will David Zaslav and his top executives be next year?
Who can say?
The corporate leadership at another obscenely powerful conglomerate, Comcast (which owns NBCUniversal), have had their eyes on Warner Bros. Discovery.
So far, Zaslav has vowed that his company is not for sale. Feel free to believe him.
It’s a depraved, depraved, depraved, depraved world
In sum, the socially, economically, and culturally disastrous WarnerMedia and Discovery merger is the perfect illustration of the depravity of a system set up to gratify the insatiable greed and power lust of the ultra-wealthy, no matter how destructive the consequences.
And never forget: Those who continue to allow that to happen – the (however victimized) human rabble that chooses to either look the other way or remain blissfully unaware of the reality around them – are no less depraved.
Ah, did you know that Warner Bros. officially turned 100 this year?
With his own personal touch, David Zaslav is celebrating the centenary of one of the most iconic media brands the world has ever known.
The killer touch
P.S.: One piece critical of David Zaslav is still up at its original location. That’s former GQ correspondent Drew Magary’s “David Zaslav kills everything he touches, including GQ” at sfgate.com.
A couple of brief passages:
“Not only is this man a terrible CEO, but he’s also an imperious coward who’s more than willing to swat down anyone who dares question his authority. Our worst kind of rich person.”
“He’s a parasite: a terrible CEO, an enemy to artists, and a lousy, horrible graduation speaker to boot.[*] I hope he’s strapped to a chair and forced to watch The Flash on repeat for the rest of his pathetic little existence.”
* Back in late May, David Zaslav was booed while speaking at a Boston University graduation ceremony. Students also chanted, “Pay your writers!”
The Writers Guild of America has been on strike for over two months; the Screen Actors Guild may follow suit in the next week or so.
“David Zaslav Demands ‘Corrections,’ GQ Editors Cravenly Acquiesce” notes
The Streisand effect
 Named after two-time Academy Award winner Barbra Streisand,† the Streisand effect refers to attempts to hide or censor information that backfire by increasing awareness of that very information.
The expression originated in 2003, when Streisand tried to suppress the publication of the California Coastal Records Project’s photograph of her Malibu cliff-top residence, which was supposed to illustrate coastal erosion in that part of the state. The result was that the photo – and the house depicted in it – gained worldwide attention.
† Barbra Streisand was named Best Actress for Funny Girl (1968; tied with Katharine Hepburn for The Lion in Winter) and received her second statuette as co-composer of Best Song winner “Evergreen” from A Star Is Born (1976).
Save TCM uproar
 One assumes David Zaslav wasn’t quite expecting the furor against his decision to throw a wrecking ball at TCM, as it ended up raising the ire not only of classic cinema aficionados but also of Hollywood celebrities ranging from Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and George Stevens Jr. to Ryan Reynolds, Mark Hamill, and Paul Thomas Anderson – some of whom are the kind of people Zaslav would like to have working at Warner Bros.
Curiously, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has remained publicly silent on the matter, as they seem to be far less concerned with the wide dissemination of film history than with snide social media hashtags.
Relevant detail: TCM’s “Silent Sunday Nights” host Jacqueline Stewart is the director and president of the Los Angeles-based Academy Museum of Motion Pictures (website).
And to think that a few months before gutting the TCM staff, David Zaslav was in attendance at this year’s TCM Film Festival held in Hollywood. While sitting next to Steven Spielberg, Paul Thomas Anderson, and interviewer/TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, Zaslav declared, “I watch Turner Classic Movies all the time. It’s the history of our country, the motion pictures,” going on to mention the importance of classic Hollywood titles like Confessions of a Nazi Spy, Black Legion, and Gentleman’s Agreement.
Anyhow, to date at least one pivotal TCM employee has been reinstated: SVP of Programming Charles Tabesh.
Screenshot of GQ’s David Zaslav article via archive.ph.
Image of Brian Cox as Logan Roy in Succession: HBO Entertainment.
“David Zaslav Demands ‘Corrections,’ GQ Editors Cravenly Acquiesce” last updated in July 2023.