After Ramping Up Universal Toy Licensing, Stephanie Sperber Suddenly Exits

Courtesy of NBCUniversal
Stephanie Sperber

She is leaving with nearly two years left on her contract to form her own company after most recently creating licensing programs for 'Minions' and 'Jurassic World.'

Stephanie Sperber, who has been credited with a major role in ramping up Universal Studios lucrative movie and TV toy and merchandise licensing in recent years, is exiting the studio with nearly two years left on her contract, it was announced Thursday in a memo to Universal employees from Jeff Shell, chairman, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group.

"Stephanie pioneered Universal's return to the consumer products business with Universal and Illumination Entertainment's Despicable Me franchise," writes Shell. "[Her division] implemented the studio's largest-ever global licensing and promotional campaign for Despicable Me 2, including the launch of the hugely successful mobile game – Despicable Me: Minion Rush."

Sperber, who is president, Universal Partnerships & Licensing, signed a new contract in 2013 that runs through 2016 (more than a year before her old contract ran out). She is being let out of that contract.

Sperber has been with Universal in various capacities for more than 17 years. She played a key role in the success of toy and merchandise campaigns for a number of movies and other projects including the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park attraction.

Sperber most recently has engineered a tripling of the number of global licenses for Minions, from 250 for Despicable Me 2, to over 800 with more expected.

She also has worked for much of the past two years on the Jurassic World sequel coming this summer, developing a licensing program that includes toys, games and merchandise for children and adults.

"Stephanie has been a tireless advocate for Universal in the ever-changing marketplace," said NBCUniversal vice chairman Ron Meyer, "and she has built and led an organization that achieved tremendous results."

According to the surprise announcement, Sperber "has decided to leave Universal to focus on independent projects within the consumer products, digital gaming and strategic partnerships space."

She is expected to remain at Universal for several more weeks during the transition, and studio sources said that they may very well become a client for her new business.

"I want to thank my colleagues at Universal," said Sperber, "for giving me an amazing opportunity to learn, grow and lead, and I look forward to building on the incredible experiences gained here and taking them to the next level."

February 5, 5:20 p.m. Ron Meyer's title at NBCUniversal was corrected.