Universal Fires People For Making Misguided Movies


Here’s one for all you studio-gossip hounds: Universal Pictures (the filmmaking arm of General Electric, which also owns NBC) announced rather suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly today that Chairman Mac Shmuger and Co-Chairman David Linde are to be replaced with new Chair Adam Fogelson and Co-Chair Donna Langley. But why?

My money’s on their lack of it. It’s no surprise that Universal has slumped through lately, and NBC’s not doing much better — they’ve also had a personnel shift lately, after failing to move from 4th place.  And Universal’s bombs, like Land of the Lost and Funny People, are highly expensive and public fails. Land of the Lost cost Universal $100 million to produce, and only pulled in $62.5 million in worldwide box office sales, while Funny People had a net loss of $15 million. Universal currently ranks 6th in US/Canada box office receipts for the year. Time Warner ranks first.

Here’s the full text of the announcement, which was e-mailed, that we found over at Coming Soon:

Adam Fogelson has been named Chairman, Universal Pictures.

In addition, Donna Langley, has been named Co-Chairman, Universal Pictures. Rick Finkelstein, already the Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer, Universal Pictures will work closely with both as a key strategic advisor. The announcements, which are effective immediately, were made today by Ron Meyer, President and COO, Universal Studios.

Fogelson, who will report to Meyer, will be responsible for Universal’s worldwide Motion Picture Group. He will oversee all aspects of the company’s global theatrical operations, home entertainment, partnerships and licensing, finance, HR and communications.

“Adam is a natural leader with a unique ability to anticipate our audience, understand our business and collaborate with our filmmakers to give us a competitive advantage. He is well-respected within our community, deservedly so, and together with this team, I believe we are strategically poised for our future,” said Meyer.

Langley will report to Fogelson, and will work with him on developing Universal’s business and production strategies. She will continue to oversee all production, and will also assume responsibility for Focus Features and Working Title films.

Finkelstein, who will report to Meyer, will serve as a key business partner to both Fogelson and Langley. He will continue to have executive oversight for worldwide home entertainment, television distribution, business affairs and strategic alliances.

Meyer added, “Together Adam, Donna and Rick are proven leaders with the right combination of strong talent relationships and business acumen, as well as creative and commercial instincts. The depth of experience of these three executives gives me tremendous confidence in the future success of our business and I trust them to lead this organization in today’s ever-changing media environment.”

The team replaces Marc Shmuger and David Linde who previously served as Chairs for the Studio.

Meyer continued, “Marc and David have made an extraordinary contribution to Universal Pictures for which we are all very grateful. We had our two most profitable years ever under their stewardship and they have been extremely successful expanding key partnerships and building our global business.”

Fogelson said, “I couldn’t be more proud that Ron and the company have entrusted me to run Universal Pictures. To continue to work with the best team in the business is an extraordinary opportunity for which I am sincerely humbled. I am grateful for this new challenge and to be collaborating with Donna and Rick, my colleagues for whom I have tremendous respect.”

Langley said, “Universal has an extremely strong legacy and I look forward to expanding my leadership role and shaping the future of this company. I feel so fortunate to work with the most dedicated and passionate production team as well as the best creative talent in the industry.”

Finkelstein said, “This business is changing and this presents real opportunity to adapt our business model to successfully respond to the changing media and economic landscape while still maintaining our quality and creativity.”

Shmuger and Linde jointly added, “We’re extremely proud to have had the opportunity to lead such an amazing team at Universal and we’re proud of the work we accomplished together. While we will miss serving with our colleagues in these positions we look forward to future endeavors with Universal.”

Folgelson has served as President of Marketing and Distribution since October, 2007 when he assumed executive oversight of Universal’s domestic marketing and distribution operations and marketing and distribution for Rogue Pictures. Having joined Universal in 1998 as VP, Creative Advertising, he became President of Marketing 2002. Prior to working at Universal, he was Senior Vice President, Worldwide Marketing for Trimark Pictures. Earlier, he was Vice President of the AFA Company, a production marketing and distribution consulting firm, where his clients included Carolco Pictures and Nelson Entertainment.

During his tenure Fogelson has supervised the marketing campaigns for some of Universal’s most highly successful franchises including: American Pie, Meet the Parents, Fast & Furious, and The Bourne Identity. Fogelson also oversaw campaigns for such films as Ray, The 40-Year Old Virgin, 8 Mile for which he and his colleague Eddie Egan were named Entertainment Marketer of the Year by Advertising Age, Knocked Up, The Break Up, Wanted, Strangers, Dawn of the Dead, and Mamma Mia!. He also helped create the campaign for Universal’s Tony Award-winning smash Broadway musical hit Wicked. In 2009, Fogelson was again named Entertainment Marketer of the Year by Advertising Age which recognized his ability to successfully open a distinctly diverse slate of films across genres and for all audiences.

Langley has served as President, Production since January 2005. During her tenure she has been responsible for 14 films that have surpassed the $100 million mark in domestic grosses. Langley joined the company in 2001 as Senior Vice President of Production. While at Universal she has overseen some of Universal’s biggest commercial and critically-acclaimed successes including Mamma Mia!, Wanted, Knocked Up, American Gangster, United 93, The Break Up, and homegrown hit franchises including the Bourne franchise, Fast & Furious and Meet the Fockers. She played a key role in attracting some of the industry’s top filmmakers to do business with Universal including Michael Mann, Judd Apatow, Ron Howard, Ridley Scott, Clint Eastwood and Spike Lee. Before joining Universal Pictures, Langley served as Senior Vice President, Production, at New Line Cinema where she oversaw such hits as Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.

Finkelstein has been Vice Chairman, Universal Pictures and Executive Vice President, Universal Studios since July 2006. Previously he served as president and COO of Universal Pictures since 2000. He is responsible for special projects for Universal Studios president and COO Ron Meyer and oversees worldwide home entertainment and the television distribution activities of Universal Pictures. Key deals under his tenure are a $500 million pact with Relativity Media to finance upward of 40 films over three years, a groundbreaking $100 million licensing arrangement with cabler FX for 15 titles, including present release The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and the megadeal with HBO. Finkelstein also represents Universal on the board of directors of the Motion Picture Association of America. In 2008, Finkelstein was recognized by variety as a key industry dealmaker in the annual dealmakers impact report.

Bethany writes about sex. Suck it, nerds. Follow her on Twitter:

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