Focus CEO Peter Schlessel Names New Executive Team

1:41 PM PST 10/15/2013 by Pamela McClintock
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Peter Schlessel

UPDATED: Schlessel has tapped several of his FilmDistrict colleagues to join him at Focus, which is undergoing a major transformation following the exit of ousted chief James Schamus.

Getting quickly down to business, new Focus Features CEO Peter Schlessel has named key members of his management team.

As expected, he's bringing with him several colleagues from FilmDistrict, the independent distribution company he founded with Graham King and Tim Headington. They include chief operating officer Adrian Alperovich, marketing chief Christine Birch, distribution head Jim Orr and acquisitions president Lia Buman (they will keep the same titles at Focus).

Executives from Focus who have been asked to stay include president of publicity and executive vp marketing Adriene Bowles and president of production Jeb Brody, who is working on Fifty Shades of Grey. Buman and Brody will work together in shaping Focus' slate.

“I am pleased to announce the executive management team that will help me lead Focus Features into its next chapter,” said Schlessel.  “These executives will work with me in the coming weeks to round out the balance of our staffing needs for the company.”

The announcement came only an hour after word broke that Focus co-CEO Andrew Karpen has elected not to remain with Focus. Schlessel asked him to stay on in a leadership role, but the new job would have required relocating to Los Angeles, since Focus' New York office is being closed at the end of the year. Karpen did not want to move to the West Coast for family reasons.

Word of Karpen's decision comes two weeks after Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley informed Schamus that he was out as CEO of Focus.

Two other top Focus executives who won't remain include president of marketing David Brooks and president of distribution Jack Foley. Foley is based in New York; Brooks, Los Angeles.

In announcing Schlessel's hire, Langley signaled a change in direction for Focus, which will expand its slate of films to include both specialty titles and more commercial fare, similar to FilmDistrict.

The fate of those working with Karpen in Focus' New York office isn't yet clear, including who, if any, will make the move to Los Angeles. The fate of Focus' international sales and financing division -- headquartered in London -- is also unclear.

Focus is currently readying awards contender Dallas Buyers Club for release on Nov. 1, and in preproduction on Fifty Shades of Grey. However, Universal is taking the lead on the adaptation of EL James' popular novel. Last weekend, Universal and Focus announced that lead Charlie Hunnam had dropped out of the production, which is slated to start shooting next month.

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