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The well-respected Karpen was asked to stay on in a leadership role by new Focus CEO Peter Schlessel, but Karpen did not want move to Los Angeles for family reasons (Karpen’s three teenage children are still in school on the East Coast).
Word of Karpen’s decision comes two weeks after Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley informed Schamus that he was out as CEO of Focus, the studio’s specialty division, and that Focus’ New York office would be closed at the end of the year, with all operations relocating to Los Angeles.
In announcing Schlessel’s hire, Langley signaled a change in direction for Focus, which will expand its slate of films to include both specialty titles and more-commercial fare, similar to Schlessel’s FilmDistrict.
Karpen isn’t going anywhere immediately, and will remain a key member of the executive transition team for the rest of the year. Schlessel, who doesn’t officially begin his new gig until Jan. 1, is in the process of assembling his new management team, which is expected to include several FilmDistrict executives.
The fate of those working with Karpen in Focus’ New York office isn’t yet clear, including who, if any, will make the move to Los Angeles. The fate of Focus’ international sales and financing division — headquartered in London — is also unclear.
Karpen joined Focus as chief operating officer in August 2003. He was promoted to president in May 2006 when David Linde — who founded Focus with Schamus — departed for a top job at Universal. Karpen was promoted to co-CEO in May 2013.
Focus is currently readying awards contender Dallas Buyers Club for release on Nov. 1, and in preproduction on even more high-profile project Fifty Shades of Grey. However, Universal is taking the lead on the adaptation of EL James‘ popular novel. Last weekend, Universal and Focus announced that lead Charlie Hunnam had dropped out of the production, which is slated to start shooting next month.
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