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TORONTO – Adam Fogelson mingled with Ron Meyer, Donna Langley, Ron Howard and the stars of Rush at the film’s festival party Sunday night, unaware that a major shake-up at the studio was underway, a source tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Hours later, Meyer had been elevated to vice chairman at parent company NBCUniversal, with veteran international executive Jeff Shell assuming his duties and named chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment. Fogelson was out, and Langley promoted to studio chairman.
PHOTOS: Top 10 Dramatic Studio Shake-ups
NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke, at the studio’s offices in Universal City, fired Fogelson Monday after news broke that Shell would take over for Meyer, a source tells THR. The meeting between the two had been previously scheduled, and a knowledgeable source says that Burke did not intend for Fogelson to be blindsided by press reports.
An emotional Fogelson, who spoke to employees at Universal after the news, said he himself was shocked and didn’t understand the move, a source tells THR. “Now I’m going to have more time to take my kids to school,” he said. “I’ll be OK.”
Over the weekend, Meyer, Fogelson and Langley all flew on the company plane to Toronto. At Sunday night’s party for Rush at the Thompson Hotel, Fogelson and Meyer stood shoulder to shoulder as they hobnobbed with Howard and others, although they didn’t linger long (Fogelson said he was tired, while Meyer is famous for not enjoying crowds). The three executives returned together to California early on Monday morning.
Film industry executives, producers and talent at the festival were shocked by the news, particularly since Fogelson had been such a visible presence at the festival for the premieres of both Dallas Buyers Club and Rush. Word quickly spread through hotel lobbies, theaters and other festival venues.
“This is unbelievable,” said one veteran studio executive. “Shell is a television and business guy.”
RELATED: Jeff Shell to Run Universal Studios; Adam Fogelson Out
In his new role, Shell will oversee worldwide operations for the motion picture group, including its global theatrical and home entertainment businesses.
Langley will continue to oversee all feature film production, as well as Focus Features — home of the high-profile Fifty Shades of Grey film project.
“In Ron, Jeff and Donna, we have three of the most talented business and creative executives in the industry,” Burke said in a statement. “I have no doubt their collective strengths will help us continue to maintain our momentum and drive value at the studio.”
The shake-up at NBCUniversal’s film division comes as the company abruptly shifted its cable strategy, scrapping plans to launch its new Esquire network on G4 and instead rebranding the Style Network.
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