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Veteran media executive Yoko Higuchi-Zitzmann has been named the new CEO of Telepool, the German licensing, production and distribution company owned by Will and Jada Pinkett Smith’s Westbrook.
Her appointment comes after Westbrook’s took full control of Telepool in December 2021. The Munich-based group is being positioned to play a major role in Westbrook’s international expansion strategy. Alongside Telepool, Westbrook have production partnerships with Mo Abudu’s Nigerian production studio EbonyLife and Yasushi Akimoto’s Akimoto Project in Japan. Last January, Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs’ Candle Media paid $60 million for a 10 percent stake in Westbrook.
As CEO, Higuchi-Zitzmann will oversee Telepool’s entire operation, from development, co-financing and co-production through to sales and distribution. Telepool’s subsidiaries include world sales group Global Screen and home entertainment label EuroVideo. The group is one of Europe’s leading licensors of film and television rights. Alongside its massive German rights library, the company also holds German distribution rights to such Westbrook-produced features as Will Smith starrer King Richard.
Higuchi-Zitzmann joins Telepool from Matthias Schweighöfer’s production outfit Pantaleon Films (Army of Thieves), where she was managing director. She boasts more than two decades of executive experience in some of Europe’s biggest media companies, including Studio Hamburg Production Group and Constantin Film, and as a hands-on producer. Her production credits include the StudioCanal feature My Blind Date With Life and the RTL Television drama Herzogpark.
“Yoko brings to Telepool over 25 years of experience driving content production and distribution on a global scale,” said Westbrook CEO Kosaku Yada. “As Telepool’s CEO, Yoko will support the impressive work already done by the Telepool team to bring international content to Germany, and local content to the world. She’ll expand Telepool’s development and production capabilities and further extend Westbrook’s reach in European markets, helping us to build a leading, independent global content studio.”
Alongside King Richard and the hit Netflix series Cobra Kai, Westbrook productions include Peacock’s Bel-Air, a dramatic reboot of the Smith-starring ’90s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and the Emmy-winning Facebook Watch show Red Table Talk.
“Westbrook is a pioneer in the entertainment industry across mediums, and I look forward to playing a role in growing the company’s global footprint,” Higuchi-Zitzmann said in a statement. “We will strengthen the bridge between the two companies, maximizing Westbrook’s presence in the global content marketplace through Telepool’s extensive sales and distribution infrastructure.”
Since it’s founding in 2019, Westbrook has benefited from the commercial cache of its celebrity owners, but the company took a reputational hit after Will Smith slapped host Chris Rock on stage at the Oscars last year. Smith returned to the spotlight late last year with the release of Antoine Fuqua’s Emancipation, which Smith both produced and starred in.
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