Thomas Peter Friedl, Norbert Sauer Exit German Production Giant UFA

Teamworx

The trio of Nico Hofmann, Joachim Kosack and Jurgen Schuster will run UFA's fiction operations.

COLOGNE, Germany - Thomas Peter Friedl and Norbert Sauer are leaving German production giant UFA as the company goes through a major restructuring. Sauer, who will step down at the end of August, has been a central figure at UFA for more than 30 years,  Friedl, who was key in launching UFA's theatrical operations UFA Cinema back in 2008, will leave at the end of this year.

The moves come as UFA, Germany's largest television production company, carries out a major overhaul of its entire operations to pool creative talent from its numerous divisions and subsidies. The restructuring will see UFA split its operations into three umbrella divisions: an entertainment division for TV variety and reality shows, a daily drama division for small screen soap operas and a fiction division to develop and produce films, TV series and TV movies.

Heading up the new fiction division will be a three-man management team of UFA execs Nico Hofmann, Jurgen Schuster and Joachim Kosack, who joins the company from his current post as head of German commercial broadcaster Sat.1.

UFA remains a dominant force in television production in Germany with shows spanning the range from the local version of Pop Idol and Got Talent to hit soap Good Times, Bad Times, sitcom Danni Lowinski and BAFTA-nominated period miniseries The Sinking of the Laconia. But the company has struggled to translate that success to the big screen.

UFA Cinema, launched with much fanfare four years ago, has failed to become a major player in the German film industry. UFA has produced one successful family franchise, the boarding school comedies Hanni and Nanni the third of which is currently shooting. It has also, however, delivered a series of flops, including big budget misfires The Fourth State from genre expert Dennis Gansel, Roland Suso Richter's adventure drama Jungle Child (2011) and Lars Kraume's dystopian sci-fi feature The Coming Days (2010).

UFA Cinema is hoping to land its first major international hit with the English-language drama The Physician. The film, based on the best-selling novel by Noah Gordon, stars Ben Kingsley, Stellan Skarsgard, Oliver Martinez and Tom Payne, is currently shooting under the direction of German helmer Philipp Stolzl.

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