Discovery CEO Zaslav’s White Man Problem

Bloomberg News ran a damning article about the composition of the top management and the board of recently created Warner Bros. Discovery. CEO David Zaslav has been an American management superstar for years, and is among the highest-paid public company chiefs in the country. 

Bloomberg’s primary point is that Zaslav does not care about diversity at either the board of directors or top management level. At the very least, he has not taken a single action to show that he is more than indifferent. Performance counts to Zaslav at a phenomenal level, so apparently it is hard to find people of color or women who fit that bill. Perhaps he thinks none of them are up to his standards.

Two other aspects of the Bloomberg article are that, despite efforts from outside groups, Warner Bros. Discovery has done little to solve this problem. In addition,  Zaslav says the diversity issue is not a problem at all.

What emerges is a picture of a man who does not care about diversity at Warner Bros. Discovery. The ability to hire a modest number of women or minorities for senior positions is not outside Zaslav’s ability. (His supporters think nothing is.) Even if he believes he must compromise on the quality of talent, he should know better.

However, he does not have to compromise, and he knows it. Perhaps he thinks the lack of diversity helps him from a marketing standpoint, as absurd as it seems. 

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Among the worst problems Zaslav has created is an atmosphere where diversity is not a priority. He is a carefully followed and famous CEO. Senior managers and CEOs throughout the country look up to him. If they consider him an American business leadership standard, a decision to surround himself with white men is “OK.” Warner. Bros Discovery’s success becomes an “ends justify the means” formula.

Who should solve the problem? The only group that can fix this is the Warner Bros. Discovery board of directors. Samuel A. DiPiazza, Jr., a member of the Alabama Business Hall of Fame, is the company’s chairman. He is also a former CEO of PricewaterhouseCoopers. DiPiazza and his fellow board members have let Zaslav get away with behavior that any reasonable outsiders would find inappropriate.

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Zaslav has a problem. He could have solved it long ago. He should solve it now. His actions have already undermined his legacy.

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