Chris Albrecht, the former chairman of HBO and current president of Legendary Television, has been placed on administrative leave, according to the company.
The suspension comes as a forthcoming book, It’s Not TV: The Spectacular Rise, Revolution, and Future of HBO by Felix Gillette and John Koblin, reveals new details about how Albrecht allegedly disparaged a staffer who exited HBO following a settlement that was brokered by HBO. (Albrecht’s rep denies the allegations.)
A Legendary spokesperson said Monday that Albrecht has been placed on a leave of absence, and declined to comment further.
According to an early draft of the book reviewed by The Hollywood Reporter, the authors detail a previously reported allegation that Albrecht choked Sasha Emerson, a former exec vp and rising star at HBO in the late 1980s and early 1990s (Albrecht’s rep denies the allegation). The incident, which allegedly took place in her office in the summer of 1991, months after Albrecht and Emerson, who were both married at the time, ended their consensual affair, according to the book. In the immediate aftermath, Emerson detailed the incident to a friend as well as to HBO’s Michael Fuchs. A police report was never filed.
“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,” Albrecht said in a statement to THR.
Emerson, following mediation with HBO, took a settlement and left the network, the book notes. The settlement was never revealed to the HBO board and Emerson’s departure was not explained internally, according to the book. Afterwards, Albrecht was then moved to report to Bridget Potter. (A rep for Albrecht says that the executive’s reporting structure never changed and that he always reported to Potter). Albrecht at the time was in charge of originals and was working with Emerson on HBO Independent Productions (Roc, Martin).
It’s Not TV, due Nov. 1 via Penguin Random House, reveals through extensive reporting and interviews with at least one witness that Albrecht would disparage Emerson in meetings with TV writers and producers following her exit in behavior that one staffer dubbed “vile.” (Albrecht’s rep denies the allegation.)
One TV writer who was close with Emerson said in the book that HBO rewrote the narrative as there existed at the time a “campaign to blacken her out” and paint her as a “chaotic, problematic person” as she took a “very unfair settlement .” The Los Angeles Times reported in 2007 that she received at least $400,000.
Emerson, who spoke with the authors for the book, said that years later she still can’t bear to feel anything constricting her throat, including the strap of a bike helmet.
In the book, Albrecht — via his lawyer — disputes what happened in Emerson’s office in the summer of 1991. “He rejects and disagrees with the characterization of what happened” and declined to comment further.
The book also revisits Albrecht’s public arrest after he was seen by the police choking his then-girlfriend Karla Jensen in Las Vegas. The incident prompted Albrecht to resign from his role at HBO.
Following a long and successful tenure at Starz, Albrecht was promoted to run Legendary Television in early 2021 when he was tasked with leading the Wanda Group-controlled studio’s international and domestic arms. He first joined Legendary in December 2019 after he was pushed out at Starz following a 10-year run leading the premium cable network. Sources at the time said infighting between Albrecht and new corporate parent Lionsgate led to his ouster. Albrecht has since inked deals with foreign companies to develop premium scripted shows and handed out a few domestic script deals as his tenure thus far has been unremarkable. It’s also worth noting that at the time of his hiring at Legendary that a handful of creators and executives were vocal about not wanting to work with Albrecht, whose previous history with women were the subject of coverage in the tabloids as well as in the entertainment press .
Updated at 7:03 pm PT: This story has been updated with a new statement from Albrecht.