Michael Joe Resigns Post at Elliott Management Corporation

Michael Joe Relativity Headshot 2011

The former Universal Studios executive says he's leaving the New York City-based hedge fund to "pursue a new opportunity."

Eight months after he left Relativity Media to join Elliott Management Corporation, former Universal Studios executive Michael Joe announced Wednesday that he will leave the New York-based hedge fund to “pursue a new opportunity” sometime in early 2012.

Joe, based in Los Angeles, was said to have been hired to keep an eye on Elliott’s billion-dollar investment in Relativity — and keep tabs on its CEO Ryan Kavanaugh — after serving as president of the fledgling movie distributor for about a year.

He apparently is leaving because there was not much for him to do, as Elliott has at the very least scaled back and may have completely ended investments in entertainment at this time — specifically in Relativity, according to sources. Relativity reportedly has been looking for new sources of capital or other investors.

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"Since film-related investments represent a shrinking focus of Elliott’s portfolio," said Jesse Cohn of Elliott in a statement, "we understand and support Michael’s decision to pursue a new opportunity."

"It became increasingly apparent that on a personal and professional level, my passion is to be an active participant within the media and entertainment industry," said Joe in a statement.

What Joe did not say is whether he has a specific new professional opportunity, as the release seems to suggest and, if so, where he is headed.

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Joe had joined Relativity as president in May 2010 after about 15 very successful years at Universal Studios, where he had oversight of business development and initiatives in digital, wireless, interactive games, digital cinema and other areas.

It was at Universal that Joe first dealt with Kavanaugh, who in 2008 had set up a co-financing deal to cover about half of many of the studio’s movies. At that time Relativity was simply the financier — mostly with money invested by Elliott — and Universal made the movies.

When Relativity decided to expand into its own movie distribution, Kavanaugh hired Joe away from Universal. A year later, as Elliott apparently mulled whether or not to continue its investment in the film funds (at Universal and Sony, primarily), Joe moved to Elliott, where he was supposed to stay on top of how Relativity was handling the money that the fund had invested.

Shortly thereafter, Elliott also took over direct management and control of the co-financing fund at Universal. The co-financing fund at Sony Pictures Entertainment is expected to wind down when it expires in about a year.

When he left Relativity, Joe was replaced as president by Steve Bertram, who had been COO, and Bertram was replaced as COO by Brian Edwards. Last October, Edwards left Relativity to return to Mark Burnett Productions, where he had worked previously. Bertram, whose contract is up shortly, is expected to announce this month whether he will stay on at Relativity, or leave that company.

All of this has added up to a lot of executive turnover at Relativity, but the company remains on course to release at least half a dozen movie this year. It successfully released the big-budget action fantasy Immortals last year, which has grossed about $182 million worldwide. Its next wide release is Haywire, directed by Steven Soderbergh, which opens Jan. 20. It is scheduled to release Mirror Mirror, its take on the Snow White tale, in March.