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Turner President David Levy (L) and HBO CEO Richard Plepler. Photos: David Becke; Drew Angerer via Getty Images

Hollywood was stunned Thursday by the simultaneous announcements that Richard Plepler and David Levy, the respective heads of HBO and Turner, had "decided to move on" from their plum roles at the top of the WarnerMedia empire. Talk of imminent "massive layoffs" inevitably followed.

The big picture: Plepler ran HBO as a very lucrative high-end operation, bringing in profit of about $2 billion per year as well as some 160 Emmys and an Axios show. He also made it clear that he needed little if any help from his parent company, and that he valued his independence.

  • HBO's parent company, Time Warner, was bought by AT&T last year. It was renamed WarnerMedia and placed under the aegis of John Stankey, a telecommunications executive suspicious of HBO's big-spending ways. When Plepler pointed to how much money he was making, Stankey retorted that it wasn't enough.
  • Stankey is looking for growth rather than cuts, but that's not stopping HBO employees from worrying that they're going to go through the kind of pain that Kraft Heinz went through when it got taken over by 3G.

The bottom line: If efficiency engineering doesn't work for ketchup, it's even harder to make work in Hollywood — a place that can credibly claim significant positive returns on lavish spending, without ever really being able to explain how that works. The culture clash is only just beginning.

Go deeper

Big Tech lobbies hard against looming antitrust bill

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Big Tech CEOs, including Apple's Tim Cook and Google's Sundar Pichai, have been jawboning lawmakers as a Senate committee takes up a key antitrust bill Thursday.

Why it matters: The bill prompting this lobbying frenzy could upend how tech's giants do business, and tech's critics see this as a "now or never" moment for Congress to check the industry's power.

Biden stock market gets Trumped

Data: Yahoo Finance; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

U.S. stocks markets performed worse during the first year of Joe Biden's presidency than during the first year of Donald Trump's presidency.

By the numbers: The S&P 500 rose 19.3% between the market close before Biden's inauguration and yesterday's market close, compared to a 24.1% increase for Trump during the similar period.

Inflation threatens Latinos' buying power

Expand chart
Data: Hispanic Index of Consumer Sentiment; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Latinos in the U.S. are less optimistic about the economy than they were a year ago as inflation threatens to cut into their buying power.

Why it matters: Latinos have been economic growth drivers for the past decade, opening new businesses at faster rates than other groups and increasing their homeownership rates. The group's overall output would make them the seventh-largest GDP in the world if they were a country.