Debbie Liebling Steps Down as Universal's President of Production

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Adam Fogelson and Donna Langley are promoting Peter Cramer and Jeffrey Kirshenbaum as co-presidents of production.

Debbie Liebling, Universal’s president of production, is exiting that role after just 18 months. The former Fox executive never quite fit into the Uniculture, according to a number of insiders.

Universal chairman Adam Fogelson and co-chairman Donna Langley announced Monday that she will be replaced by studio execs Peter Cramer and Jeffrey Kirshenbaum, who have been promoted to co-presidents of production.

Cramer currently serves as senior exec vp, production, while Kirshenbaum is exec vp, production.

Fogelson and Langley described the movie as a restructuring, saying, “Over the past 18 months, as we refined our process, it became clear that a different structure would better suit our needs going forward. The new structure will have a smaller executive team with broader responsibilities. Debbie has been a good leader and strong contributor through this transition period and we wish her well in her new endeavors.”

Liebling came to Universal from Fox, where as exective vp, production, she had overseen such successful comedies as Borat and Dodgeball.

But according to studio insiders, the former Fox exec did not prove a good fit at Universal, where she was regarded by some as an outsider. “She had her Fox way -- she hammered writers, she hammered producers -- and that isn’t Donna’s way,” said one source.

Liebling may also have had a hard time defining a role for herself.

Liebling stepped into the post that Langley had held before she Langley was named co-chairman, but Langley remained very hands-on. “Debbie never had a real job,” another source said.

Both Cramer and Kirshenbaum are long-time Universal execs.

Cramer joined the studio in 2005 and was promoted to senior exec vp, production in January, 2010. He has been involved in such films as American Gangster and The Adjustment Bureau and is currently overseeing such upcoming
titles as Safe House, Ted, The Bourne Legacy, Savages and American Reunion.

Kirschenbaum has been with Universal even longer, having joined the studio as a director of development in 2001. He has worked on such movies as Wanted and The Bourne Ultimatum as well as Uni’s new hit Fast Five. He’s currently
shepherding Battleship, Snow White and the Huntsman and 47 Ronin.

With Comcast’s recent acquisition of NBCUniversal, the studio has been under added scrutiny. But after a dry spell at the box office, it’s seen its fortunes improve in recent weeks with the release of the animated/live action movie Hop, which has grossed $163.8 million worldwide to date, and the debut of Fast Five, which grossed $86.2 million at the domestic box office over the past weekend.