BURBANK, Calif. – There isnt much Hollywood about Kevin Tsujihara.
He spends most of his time in backroom meetings, away from the red carpets and spotlights for which the city is known. There are few photos of him online, and a few weeks ago, someone created the first page for him on Wikipedia.
But today the 48-year-old father of two, who grew up making deliveries as the son of egg distributors, will become the CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment. The third-generation Japanese-American will be the first Asian-American to head a Hollywood studio.
And Warner Bros. isnt just any studio. It is one of the worlds largest entertainment companies and the fount from which recent Oscar winner Argo sprang. Sprawled over 35 sound stages and other buildings, the studio got its start in 1923. Its the home of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, whose modern hits include the multibillion-dollar franchises Harry Potter and The Dark Knight.
Tsujiharas rise at Warner Bros., and his appointment as CEO, is a testament to his hard work, humility and willingness to take risks. Its also a sign of the progress Japanese-Americans have made in the last 70 years.
During World War II, Tsujiharas parents, like thousands of Japanese families living in the U.S., were branded by the federal government as security risks and forced to live in internment camps. They had their property confiscated and had to rebuild from scratch when the war was over. The Tsujihara familys struggle lends deeper meaning to Kevins accomplishments.
The one thing I kind of regret and am sad about is that I couldnt share this with my dad, Tsujihara said during an emotional moment in his office on the studio lot. He would be shocked. I think my dad would think its not even in the realm of possibility. Not because he didnt think I was great. But I dont think he thought these opportunities would exist for us.
Last months appointment of Tsujihara came as a surprise. Although he was in the running to replace Barry Meyer as chief executive, he wasnt exactly the front-runner.
Most observers believed the job would go to one of two colleagues with whom Tsujihara shared the office of the president – Warner Bros. Pictures President Jeff Robinov or Warner Bros. Television Group President Bruce Rosenblum.
Robinov had overseen production of the hugely successful Dark Knight series.
Rosenblum helped turn the studio into Hollywoods largest producer of TV shows.
Meanwhile, Tsujihara had been in charge of driving consumption of movies on disc and in digital formats during a difficult transition period for the film industry.
Hollywood trade publications suggest that Tsujihara was the top choice in the end because he maintained a humble demeanor and didnt campaign for the job.
It also didnt hurt Tsujiharas chances that he gets along well with Jeff Bewkes, the CEO of parent Time Warner Inc.