Chris Albrecht, former chairman of HBO and current president of Legendary Television, has been put on administrative leave, the company confirmed.
According The Hollywood Reporter, the suspension comes in light of new details about how Albrecht allegedly maligned a staffer who left HBO following a settlement arranged by the company, revealed in the upcoming book, It’s Not TV: The Spectacular Rise, Revolution, and Future of HBO, by reporters Felix Gilette and John Koblin.
Albrecht’s rep denies the allegations. A spokesperson with Legendary said Monday only that Albrecht has been put on a leave of absence.
The allegations, according to a draft of the book viewed by THR, described a previously reported accusation that Albrecht choked Sasha Emerson, a former executive vice-president at HBO, in her office during the summer of 1991. The incident took place months after the two, who were both married, had ended an affair. At the time, Emerson reported directly to Albrecht, who was head of programming, the Los Angeles Times reports. Emerson told a friend about what happened, as well as then-HBO chief Michael Fuchs.
Albrecht said in a statement to THR, “After more than 30 years an old, flawed story is now being refurbished and recycled for the sake of sales. I have sincerely apologized to those whom I offended with disrespect and utterly unacceptable behavior. But that doesn’t sell books or generate media attention. Some things do indeed age well; but bad reporting does not.”
After the alleged choking incident, Emerson went into mediation with HBO, took a settlement, and quit the network. Her exit was never explained internally, and her settlement was not made known to the board.
A TV writer who was close with Emerson said in It’s Not TV that she took a “very unfair settlement.” It was reported in 2007 by the Times that she received at least $400,000.
In the book, out November 1, it is reported that after Emerson left, Albrecht would talk badly about her in meetings with TV writers and producers. One staffer characterized his language as “vile.” Albrecht’s rep denies that one as well.
The book also relates the incident that caused Albrecht to resign from HBO—a public arrest after Vegas police spotted him choking his girlfriend at the time, Karla Jensen. He admitted to a drinking problem at the time, according to the LAT.
After a long stint at Starz, Albrecht joined Legendary Television in 2019, and was tapped to run it in early 2021. When he was hired at Legendary, notes THR, “a handful of creators and executives were vocal about not wanting to work with” him.
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