Reed Hastings, the Netflix cofounder who led the company for more than two decades as it pivoted from a DVD-by-mail business into a streaming juggernaut, is stepping down from his role as co-CEO. He will become Netflix’s executive chairman, leaving day-to-day management of the company to two of his lieutenants, Ted Sarandos and Greg Peters. 

Hastings said that the decision to step away from the CEO role was part of a yearslong succession plan, likening the move to those made by famous founders Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates. In 2020, he promoted Sarandos—the company’s longtime content chief and architect of its push into original programming—to the role of co-CEO and product chief Peters to the role of chief operating officer and increasingly delegated the management of the company to them. “It was a baptism by fire, given COVID and recent challenges within our business,” Hastings said in a statement. “But they’ve both managed incredibly well, ensuring Netflix continues to improve and developing a clear path to reaccelerate our revenue and earnings growth. So the board and I believe it’s the right time to complete my succession.” Hastings added that he plans to spend more time on philanthropy, though he will “remain very focused on Netflix stock doing well.” 

As part of the leadership reshuffle, global head of television Bela Bajaria will succeed Sarandos as chief content officer. Film head Scott Stuber will take on a new role as chairman of Netflix’s film business. In a statement, Sarandos thanks Hastings for his leadership, mentorship, and friendship. “We’ve all learned so much from his intellectual rigor, honesty and willingness to take big bets—and we look forward to working with him for many more years to come,” he said, adding that Bajaria and Stuber are “outstanding creative executives with proven track records at Netflix.” 

Close Netflix watchers won’t exactly be surprised by the news that Hastings, 62, is passing the baton. Though he told investors in 2020 that he was “in for a decade,” the decision to name Sarandos as co-CEO and promote Peters to COO indicated that he was ready to take a step back from day-to-day management. That same year, he published a book of management advice based on his years running Netflix. It shed light on his unconventional leadership style and its role in birthing a corporate culture that allowed Netflix to adapt and grow during its first two decades. 

But like many corporate leaders, Hastings has faced a roller coaster few years. Netflix saw an early boom in its business as people found themselves stuck at home with little to do, adding a record 36.6 million global subscribers in 2020. But it hit a rough patch in 2022 as it faced new competition in streaming and as COVID restrictions lifted, and it reported its first loss in subscribers since 2011. Netflix responded to the challenges by announcing plans to crack down on password sharing and launching an ad-supported streaming product, something that Hastings previously swore he would never do. Its business improved in the second half of 2022, and the company added 8.9 million members for the full year, its lowest rate of growth in more than a decade.

Hastings has a reputation for being a touch eccentric. He likes to wear Netflix-branded merchandise during the company’s earnings calls and made headlines in 2017 when he declared that the company’s biggest competition was sleep. When Netflix passed 200 million subscribers, the billionaire—whom Forbes estimates is worth $3.3 billion—celebrated with a steak from Denny’s. He is a passionate supporter of charter schools and advocate for children’s education.

Natalie Jarvey

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