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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

The elusive political power of Mexican Americans

Data: Pew Research Center, U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios

Mexican Americans make up the nation's largest Latino group, yet they remain politically outshined by more recently arrived Cuban Americans.

Why it matters: The disparities in political power between Mexican Americans and Cuban Americans reflect the racial, historical, geographical and economic differences within Latino cultures in the U.S.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
38 mins ago - Health

The barriers to vaccine passports

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Vaccine passports could become available soon to help people resume their livesbut they face numerous scientific, social and political barriers to being accepted.

The big picture: Reliable and accessible proof of vaccine-induced protection from the novel coronavirus could speed international travel and economic reopening, but obstacles to its wide-scale adoption are so great it may never fully arrive.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate action on stimulus bill continues as Dems reach deal on jobless aid

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democratic leaders struck an agreement with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) on emergency unemployment insurance late Friday, clearing the way for Senate action on President Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus package to resume after an hours-long delay.

The state of play: The Senate continued to work through votes on a series of amendments overnight into early Saturday morning.