Pic tag team: WWE, Lake

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Michael Lake is replacing Joel Simon as president of World Wrestling Entertainment's film division, which has been struggling at the boxoffice.

A spokesman for the sports entertainment powerhouse said Thursday that WWE has hired Lake with a two-year contract.

Lake will develop theatrical features and direct-to-video products as vehicles for WWE stars. He said he plans to ramp up production on WWE Films' straight-to-video slate, aiming to produce about three or four films annually along with a theatrical tentpole feature. He also will develop new TV projects that would benefit from an affiliation with WWE or its talent.

He most recently was executive producer on "The Condemned," one of three WWE films the company has produced in the past five years. The movie starring wrestler "Stone Cold" Steve Austin struggled at the boxoffice but has done solid home video business in recent weeks.

Lake, a veteran of Village Roadshow Pictures, has overseen production work on such Hollywood hits as the "Matrix" trilogy, "Miss Congeniality" and "Ocean's Eleven."

"Joel is leaving to pursue a career as an independent producer," a WWE spokesman said of Simon's departure.

Lake will report to WWE chairman Vince McMahon in the company's Stamford, Conn., offices. He seemed undaunted by on-air confrontations between McMahon and his employees. "This is WWE," he said with a laugh. "In the time I've worked here, I've seen that anything can happen."
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