Jim Gianopulos Leaving Fox in Early September

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Jim Gianopulos

Stacey Snider will take over Gianopulos' duties as chairman-CEO of the film studio on Sept. 1, nearly a year earlier than expected.

Stacey Snider will take over as 20th Century Fox film chairman-CEO on Sept. 1, taking over the top job from longtime chief Jim Gianopulos.

When the succession plan was first announced by parent company 21st Century Fox, the conglomerate had said Gianopulos would stay on until his contract expires at the end of June 2017. That isn't happening, however.

Gianopulos, who is returning from his trip to Greece on Tuesday, has already negotiated his early exit, sources say.

In the first major management shake-up at Fox since James and Lachlan Murdoch took control last summer, they announced in June that Snider, who is studio co-chairman reporting, would succeed Gianopulos once his contract was up. Gianopulos, who has run 20th Century Fox for 16 years (first with Tom Rothman, then solo), was said to be transitioning to an undefined advisory role. But sources say Gianopulos never expected that role to amount to anything, so he's moving on. 

“We are incredibly grateful to Jim for his many contributions to our film business over his storied career at the studio and wish him much success on his next endeavors,” said Lachlan and James Murdoch in a statement. “We are fortunate to have Stacey with us to lead the studio into its next chapter and are confident we will see great success under her headship.”

Said Snider: “I am so grateful to Jim for his guidance and friendship since I joined Fox. We will all miss his wisdom and business instincts and wish him the best in whatever endeavors he takes on next. I am truly excited to embark upon this new challenge and look forward to building upon, with all my colleagues, the awesome legacy 20th Century Fox has carved into the foundation of this industry.”

The Murdoch brothers are taking a more active role in the Los Angeles-based film operations, which have suffered from a box-office decline this year. On an earnings call in early August, Lachlan said, “It's clear we have work to do at the film studio.”

“After 25 years at the studio, and 16 years as Chairman/CEO, I have experienced the greatest joys, successes and thrills that this business can offer," Gianopulos said in the same statement. "I am grateful for the opportunities the Murdochs have afforded me, and to all of my friends and colleagues at Fox, past and present. I am confident that the studio will flourish with the films Stacey and I have put in production and development, together and the films she and Fox’s great executives and filmmakers will produce in the future. I will miss the place where I have spent the majority of my career, and I wish everyone at Fox the best of success, health and happiness going forward."

Gianopulos' name frequently comes up in industry discussions of possible top studio jobs that may be available soon. Warner Bros. and Paramount, in particular, have both struggled recently. 

Warner Bros. has had a string of misfires since CEO Kevin Tsujihara unveiled an ambitious slate of tentpole, action hero movies. The end result of the studio's shift has been lackluster at best with box-office disappointments like Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Bringing in Gianopulos could help rev up the studio, which is currently being run by production chief Greg Silverman, marketing/distribution head Sue Kroll and New Line's Toby Emmerich. Tsujihara could tap Gianopulos to help lead the current management structure.

Meanwhile, Shari Redstone is now solidly in charge of Viacom — and calling the shots at Paramount Pictures, which is currently overseen by Brad Grey. However, a string of box-office failures that includes Ben Hur and Zoolander 2 could mean the studio is ripe for regime change. In fact, when Redstone wrestled back control of the company from CEO Philippe Dauman, part of the changes at Viacom will be that the board of directors has a higher degree of oversight on what Paramount churns out. 

The departure of Gianopulos from Fox comes on the heels of several other top-tier defections. Fox film worldwide president of marketing and distribution Paul Hanneman is leaving the studio after deciding not to renew his contract after he was told by Gianopulos and Snider that his title would revert to international president of distribution, sources say. And Hanneman's exec vp international distribution, Craig Dehmel, is departing Sept. 1.

Aug. 23, 2:15 p.m. Updated with 21st Century Fox official announcement.

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