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Will Clarke to leave Optimum Releasing

Setting up own banner with business partner Paul Higgins

LONDON -- Will Clarke, the founder and CEO of Optimum Releasing, is leaving the company at the end of this year to set up a production and media banner with longtime business partner Paul Higgins.

Clarke leaves a company he founded 11 years ago with Higgins. Optimum was acquired by France's StudioCanal in 2006.

He also leaves safe in the knowledge that StudioCanal has pledged to strike a production and development deal with his new label. Details are being ironed out.

Longtime Optimum executive Danny Perkins, most recently the distribution label's COO, will be upped to CEO from September this year.

Perkins joined Optimum when it was formed in 1999 and most recently supervised distribution for the company's releases and library across theatrical, DVD and television.

He will report to StudioCanal chairman and CEO Olivier Courson and be responsible for all U.K. operations.

StudioCanal said Clarke and Higgins will "remain close" to the company and have been appointed special advisors to the board.

Clarke and Perkins have become well known on the international festival and market circuit and, as a double act, built up a fine reputation for talent spotting and script pickups.

Optimum has brought British audiences U.S. indie movies such as "Elephant," "Roger Dodger," "Igby Goes Down" and "American Splendor". Other highlights include the Oscar winners "Spirited Away" and "Nowhere in Africa."