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Time Warner Names CFO Martin to Lead Turner Broadcasting

Time Warner Inc. said Chief Financial Officer John Martin will take over as head of its Turner Broadcasting unit, assuming command over cable networks CNN, TNT and TBS.

Martin will start his new role in 2014, replacing Phil Kent, who will stay on as chairman, Time Warner said today in a statement. The New York-based company said it will name Martin’s successor in a matter of weeks.

Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Bewkes is moving his lieutenants into key posts as the company evaluates possible successors in anticipation of the end of his employment agreement in 2017, when he’ll be 65. In January, Bewkes named Kevin Tsujihara to lead the company’s Warner Bros. film and TV studio, ending a two-year contest among a number of Warner executives to succeed Barry Meyer.

A few months earlier, Bewkes hired Jeffrey Zucker to lead the ailing CNN after then-President Jim Walton said he would be stepping down, and in September, he named Richard Plepler head of HBO.

During a breakfast meeting at the Cannes Lions festival in France last month, Bewkes asked Kent what he wanted to do, since his contract was due to expire by the end of next year, Kent said in an interview.

Different Executive

“I told him I didn’t want to extend it,” said Kent, who has been CEO of the cable network company since 2003. “I loved my job, but I’ve been doing it a long time and it was the right time to leave. The suggestion of putting in John made the decision even easier for me.

‘‘I’m not in the executive-perpetuation business,” said Kent, 58.

Turner will account for more than half of Time Warner’s annual sales once the company spins off magazine unit Time Inc. later this year, he said, requiring a different kind of executive to lead the broadcaster.

“The lines between Turner and Time Warner have blurred,” he explained. “Turner will soon drive the majority of shareholder value for Time Warner, and that needs a different kind of CEO with different strengths.”

Martin, 46, who has been a regular presence at investor conferences and on earnings conference calls, would make an ideal executive for Turner, according to Kent.

Martin, who has a master’s degree from Columbia University’s business school, first joined Time Warner in 1993 and later rose to become CFO in 2008.

Time Warner rose less than 1 percent to $61.68 at 12:46 p.m. in New York. The shares have gained 28 percent this year before today.

Kent said he hasn’t thought about what he plans to do after next year.

“I will not figure that out until I stop doing this, and I’ve still got a lot of work to do here,” he said.

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