Netflix co-CEO says 3 execs were fired for repeatedly making ‘critical, personal comments’ about their peers in a public Slack channel

The Netflix company logo is seen on a sign in front of Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, California.
The Hollywood Reporter reported Netflix fired three senior executives for airing complaints on Slack. Ryan Anson/Getty Images
  • The Hollywood Reporter said Netflix fired three senior execs for criticizing company leadership.
  • Co-CEO Ted Sarandos disputed the report, saying that the execs had disparaged their peers.
  • The messages were “inconsistent” with the company’s policy of “radical transparency,” Sarandos said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The three Netflix marketing executives whose firing made news last week had made unprofessional comments about their peers in a nonprivate Slack channel, according to Netflix co-CEO and Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos.

“What happened here was unfortunately not simply venting on Slack or a single conversation,” Sarandos said in a comment posted on LinkedIn. “These were critical, personal comments made over several months about their peers (not their management as suggested by The Hollywood Reporter).”

The Hollywood Reporter article Sarandos was referring to said the executives were fired for criticizing their bosses.

The executives, who accounted for about half of Netflix’s staff at that level, had also criticized their direct boss, Jonathan Helfgot, the vice president of original-film marketing, THR reported. The outlet added that while Helfgot himself was reluctant to let the employees go, he ultimately gave in to pressure from more senior leadership to fire the three people.

In a statement to Insider, a Netflix spokesperson disputed the nature of the behavior that led to the firings: “The depiction of the Slack messages in question being critical of marketing leadership is untrue,” the spokesperson said, declining to clarify to Insider the language the employees used.

Netflix is known for a unique company culture that it famously outlined publicly in 2009 in a 127-slide deck, which said that it valued “radical transparency” – a value that leads to intense feedback during its annual 360-degree reviews.

While the former executives thought they were chatting in a private channel, it was viewable by anyone at the company, Sarandos said on LinkedIn. The messages dating back several months were discovered and reported by another employee, he added.

The executives’ gripes also targeted Netflix Chief Marketing Officer Bozoma Saint John, THR reported. Saint John, a rising star in the company, has gained a reputation for her connections to political luminaries like the Obamas and fashion icons like Anna Wintour. She is known as unapologetically outspoken and a role model for women of color, who have been notoriously underrepresented at the executive level of major companies.

Sarandos said the Slack messages were “entirely inconsistent” with the company’s long-held policy of “radical transparency” that emphasizes open communication and tough feedback.

“It’s also worth noting that we don’t proactively monitor Slack or email,” Sarandos said.