The article on the GQ website was a fierce critique of David Zaslav, comparing the Warner Bros. Discovery chief executive to the ruthless business tycoon played by Richard Gere in “Pretty Woman.”
Then, hours after the article went online on Monday, it disappeared with no explanation. The article had been altered, and then deleted, after Warner Bros. Discovery raised an objection with the magazine.
Publications often amend or correct articles after they’re published. But it is unusual for mainstream news organizations like GQ to remove an article entirely. And some GQ readers noticed and voiced their concerns on social media.
In a statement, GQ said the article had not been properly edited before it was published.
“After a revision was published, the writer of the piece asked to have their byline removed, at which point GQ decided to unpublish the piece in question,” the statement said. “GQ regrets the editorial error that led to a story being published before it was ready.”
GQ’s story was put in motion late last month, when an editor at the magazine asked Jason Bailey, a freelancer, to write an analysis that explained why Mr. Zaslav was “the most hated man in Hollywood,” according to two people with knowledge of the assignment.
Mr. Zaslav took over the Hollywood powerhouse last year, when Discovery merged with WarnerMedia, catapulting him to the highest echelons of the media industry. (The Newhouse family, which owns GQ publisher Condé Nast, also has a stake in Warner Bros. Discovery and has representatives on its board of directors.)
In recent months, Mr. Zaslav has become a target of criticism in some Hollywood circles. Many of the complaints have centered on budget cuts and other changes he has announced. Last month, the company laid off some top executives at Turner Classic Movies, a move that was harshly criticized by some of the industry’s top talent.
Mr. Zaslav has said he was making difficult decisions to safeguard the long-term health of the company in a difficult business environment. Amid the furor over TCM, he asked the directors Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson to advise the channel.
The resulting article had the headline: “How Warner Bros. Discovery C.E.O. David Zaslav became public enemy number one in Hollywood.”
A spokesman for Warner Bros. Discovery soon reached out to the magazine to complain, pointing out that the company wasn’t contacted for comment on the article, according to the two people with knowledge of the interactions. Soon after, Mr. Bailey heard from a senior editor at GQ, who asked him to revise the story.
Mr. Bailey declined to participate but gave the editor permission to make changes, according to the two people with knowledge of the interactions. When the revisions came back, Mr. Bailey objected to the new version and said that he wasn’t comfortable with his byline appearing on the article. The revised version did not include the reference to “Pretty Woman,” among other changes.
GQ then decided to unpublish the article, the two people said.
Mr. Bailey, who has also written for The New York Times, said in a statement that he objected to the notion that the story was not properly edited.
“It went through a round of edits and I was assured by the top editor that I spoke to on the phone that there were no factual inaccuracies in the piece,” Mr. Bailey said. “I had gone through edits and would have been happy to continue to participate in the editing process had it taken place before the publication of the piece.”