WarnerMedia has launched a second investigation into charges that Kevin Ken Tsujihara, chairman and CEO of Warner Brothers Entertainment (Warner Bros.), had an affair with 26 year-old British actress Charlotte Kirk that led to her being cast in several Warner Bros.' productions.
Tsujihara oversees all aspects of the world's largest film and television studio.
Warner Bros. first became aware of allegations of sexual impropriety against Tsujihara, who is married, in the fall of 2017. Tsujihara himself alerted the studio to his affair with Kirk out of concern about Kirk's behavior after the alleged sexual relationship ended.
WarnerMedia said it investigated but found no wrongdoing or abuse of power by Tsujihara at the time. It took no action against the CEO's behavior. Tsujihara's actions and his stewardship of Warner Bros. was scrutinized again when AT&T acquired WarnerMedia in 2018.
A lengthy investigative report published today by The Hollywood Reporter, however, provided incredibly detailed information, including incriminating text messages, about the alleged affair and the involvement of Australian media mogul James Packer and director-producer Brett Ratner.
It was Packer who introduced Kirk to Tsujihara in 2013. Kirk was Packer's girlfriend at the time, and she admitted as much.
The exposé by THR includes images of text messages allegedly from Tsujihara and Kirk where she goads him to help her make connections that could lead to acting work. Tsujihara is said to have helped Kirk connect with New Line Cinema president Richard Brener.
The published text messages are blatant. After having had sex for the first time with Tsujihara in September 2013 at the Hotel Bel-Air, Kirk texted Packer: "His [sic] not very nice! Very pushy!! He just wants to f--- nothing else does not even want To say anything!"
On March 3, 2015, an apparently frustrated Kirk texted Tsujihara saying "You're very busy I know but when we were in that motel having sex u said u would help me and when u just ignore me like you're doing now it makes me feel used. Are u going to help me like u said u would?"
Tsujihara replied: "Sorry you feel that way. Richard will be reaching out to u tonight." Richard in this case was Richard Brener, then president of production at Warners' New Line label.
Kirk was later cast in small roles in two Warner films: "How to Be Single" (released in 2016) and "Ocean's 8," according to THR. She also auditioned for several other projects at Warners and at Avi Lerner's Millennium Films.
Kirk, however, seemed unsatisfied by her progress, and voiced her frustrations about not getting as many roles as she expected from Tsujihara. Ratner intervened, and in an attempt to defuse the situation, brokered a proposed settlement agreement.
This deal would have assured Kirk auditions, as well as an appearance in a Ratner-directed movie. The proposed deal was never signed, however.
The Hollywood Reporter said an "increasingly desperate struggle" then ensued among Tsujihara, Packer and Rather to "manage Kirk's urgent demands to be cast in movies and TV series." Ratner at one point accused Kirk of "extortion."
Despite confirming she and Packer had a sexual relationship, Kirk denied anything approaching extortion.
"I emphatically deny any inappropriate behavior on the part of Brett Ratner, James Packer, and Kevin Tsujihara, and I have no claims against any of them," said Kirk.
"I confirm that I was in a romantic relationship with James Packer in the summer of 2013 and that I was treated with respect by Mr. Packer, and I have no issues with him or claims against him.
"I further confirm that when the relationship ended I sought the advice of Mr. Tsujihara whom I had been introduced to by Mr. Packer. Mr. Tsujihara never promised me anything.
"I also confirm that Brett Ratner helped me out of friendship to assist me in getting auditions and trying to help me find an agent, and I have no issues with him or claims against him. I deny that there was any legal settlement or agreement entered into between myself and Brett Ratner in 2016."
The new investigation will look deeper into the alleged affair and the roles of Pecker and Ratner. Ratner, a director and film financier, has been accused of sexual harassment and misconduct by multiple women. As a result of these allegations Warner Bros. severed ties with Ratner in November 2017.
There is no telling what the effect this scandal might have on Tsujihara, whose C-Suite career is expected to be boosted by AT&T's restructuring of Time Warner. WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey and other AT&T executives think highly of Tsujihara as a leader and of his track record since taking over the studio.
Tsujihara, however, will remain in his role as Warner Bros. CEO while the new investigation is conducted, said WarnerMedia.
This article was first published in IBTimes US. Permission required for reproduction.