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Jeff Shell is taking over Universal Studios, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. Ron Meyer becomes vice chairman of NBCUniversal, and Universal Studios chairman Adam Fogelson will depart.
Donna Langley, currently co-chairman of Universal Pictures, will be named chairman. The scope of Meyer’s new duties will be revealed shortly; he will retain responsibility for theme parks and the studio lot, and his contract was extended to 2017. Shell’s title is chairman, Universal Filmed Entertainment.
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“First and foremost Jeff is a terrific media executive,” NBCU CEO Steve Burke said in a news release. “I have worked with him for over a decade and have been consistently impressed by his strategic vision, operational focus and energy. In addition, having led NBCUniversal’s international operations for the last two and a half years, Jeff is perfectly positioned to lead our film group at a time when global expansion is more important than ever.
“In Ron, Jeff and Donna, we have three of the most talented business and creative executives in the industry. I have no doubt their collective strengths will help us continue to maintain our momentum and drive value at the studio.”
As The Hollywood Reporter wrote in July, the 47-year-old Shell, who has been chairman of NBCUniversal International since 2011, purchased a 4,355-square-foot, $7.25 million house in Beverly Hills several months ago.
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Universal’s film studio has been on a good run with such hits as Fast & Furious 6 and Despicable Me 2, though R.I.P.D. proved to be a significant bomb.
But in the frenzy of speculation about major assignments following Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal in 2011, insiders tagged Shell as someone to watch. Those who know Shell say he’s a capable executive who inspired enough confidence to be dispatched to London to oversee all NBCU international business, including TV and film distribution, home entertainment and theme parks.
He reports to Burke but also has been responsible for identifying international growth opportunities for Comcast. Before Comcast, Shell was CEO of Gemstar TV Guide and spent six years as president of Comcast Programming Group, home to E!, Style and Comcast Sports Group, which included 12 regional networks. The experience primes him for just about any role in the NBCU universe.
In recent years, Fogelson’s job was often mentioned when other studio executives became available. When asked about that trend, the executive told THR in February, “I wake up every day knowing it’s a privilege to have this job — not a right. Second, if you take emotion out of it and step back, I think that kind of thing goes with the territory. [Co-chairman Langley and I] are still the newest in these jobs of anyone in this business. We’re coming out of a really difficult period for the studio. We changed owners for the fifth or sixth time in my 15 years at the company three years ago. In this type of business, where people like to talk, all of that is going to contribute to an environment where those kinds of things happen. I can tell you we have felt very supported by our bosses.”
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Of Meyer, who’s Hollywood’s longest-run studio chief, Burke said in Monday’s announcement:
“There is no one in Hollywood like Ron,” added Burke. “He is among the most accomplished, experienced and well-respected executives in the entertainment business. In the three years we have worked together, I have been impressed not only by his knowledge of the industry but also his tremendous loyalty to Universal. He has been a valuable partner to me and a great leader within our company, and I look forward to his expanded role and particularly to his close collaboration with Jeff and Donna.
“Donna continues to successfully position Universal Pictures for the future and deliver the most compelling films to our audience worldwide,” said Burke. “Her taste and instincts are unmatched in the business and she has been a driving force behind Universal’s current successes. We look forward to her continued leadership.”
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Burke’s e-mail to NBCUniversal staff is below:
I wanted to let you know that we are making some management changes at the Studio today.
I am very pleased to tell you that Jeff Shell will be taking over in the newly created role of Chairman, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group. Jeff and I have worked together for more than a decade and I know that his leadership and strategic vision will help drive our success for years to come.
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