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Former Universal Pictures chairman Adam Fogelson has been named chairman of the motion picture group at Bob Simonds‘ new film and television studio.
Fogelson’s appointment ends rampant speculation about where he would end up, and comes exactly one year after he was unceremoniously asked to leave Universal as parent company Comcast installed Jeff Shell to oversee the studio. Ironically, Universal was enjoying its most successful year in history at the box office.
“This is a monumental moment for our new company. Adam chose us over other extremely compelling offers because he recognizes the once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a modern, multi-media entertainment company from the ground up. The creation of a new major studio has not been accomplished in nearly two decades,” said Simonds, whose yet-to-be-named venture intends to release eight to 10 movies a year, primarily in the $20 million to $60 million budget range.
Fogelson reportedly had been in the mix to run worldwide marketing and distribution at Sony but opted to join Simond and his team, which also includes Fogelson’s brother, Noah Fogelson, who is strategy chief and general counsel.
Simonds’ company is certainly well funded (some insiders say he has raised more than $1 billion) and its growing executive ranks are a who’s who of well-known Hollywood players. The company is backed by TPG Growth, leading Chinese private equity firm Hony Capital, Gigi Pritzer via DNS Capital and the business interests of Beau Wrigley.
It has made a number of key hires in recent weeks, including tapping veteran studio marketing honcho Oren Aviv to serve as president and chief content officer of the motion picture group. Aviv, who was most recently co-president of domestic marketing at 20th Century Fox, was also in the running for the Sony job.
“With the shifts, opportunities and challenges that are taking place in the entertainment industry, we get the rare chance to reimagine how a contemporary studio should operate, taking full advantage of the lessons learned from the trenches,” said Fogelson. “I couldn’t be more excited to be working with Bob, who is a true innovator and a brilliant entrepreneur, and Oren, whose breadth and depth of success make him a very valuable asset to the company.
One familiar face will be Kevin Grayson, who is leaving Universal, where he worked under Fogelson, to serve as president of domestic film distribution for Simonds‘ studio. Simonds and Fogelson also intend to hire a president of marketing and a president of production.
Fogelson said Simonds has created a “striking” opportunity. “We have assembled some of the sharpest minds in the industry and we will be dedicated to optimizing the way we approach everything from overhead and studio administration to production, marketing and distribution decisions. We’re backed by a board and shareholders with tremendous vision and resources,” he said.
Aviv added, “Adam and I have talked about working together for a long time, and I’m thrilled that he will be leading us as we launch our first slate and grow our incredible new studio. The kinds of films he championed at Universal are the kinds of movies we seek to make. His hire is a true coup for our company.”
Fogelson served as chairman of Universal Pictures from 2009 until September 2013, overseeing all operations, including theatrical, home entertainment, partnerships and licensing, finance, human resources and communications. During his tenure, Universal’s list of successful films included the fifth and sixth installments in the Fast and Furious franchise, Ted, Bridesmaids, Pitch Perfect, The Purge, Les Miserables and the Despicable Me franchise.
Board members of Simonds’ studio include Frank Biondi, former president-CEO of Viacom and of Universal Studios; Tony Vinciquerra, former chairman-CEO of Fox Networks Group; Pritzker; TPG founding partner David Bonderman; TPG Growth managing partner and founder Bill McGlashan; and John Zhao, CEO of Hony Capital.
The studio has yet to announce its first film project, but its first TV production, drama series State of Affairs, starring Katherine Heigl, has been picked up by NBC.
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James Gordon Meek