RDF Media USA CEO to exit post

Chris Coelen was with the company for four years

RDF Media USA CEO Chris Coelen is leaving the company after almost four years.

The news was announced internally Thursday morning.

Since joining RDF USA in February 2006, Coelen helped build the company’s U.S. outpost into a formidable supplier. He significantly expanded operations with a string of senior-executive hires during the past year.

Most recently, leading ITV entertainment executive Natalka Znak — co-creator and executive producer of ITV1 reality hits “Hell’s Kitchen” and “I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!” — was tapped as executive vp and head of development.

Znak’s appointment, announced hours before Coelen’s resignation, marks the latest major position at RDF USA to go to a British executive and hints of a possible culture clash between U.K. mothership RDF and Coelen, an American.

Under Coelen, RDF Media USA, the company behind ABC veteran “Wife Swap,” has produced such reality series as “Secret Millionaire” and “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” for Fox and “Find My Family” for ABC as well as cable shows “Addicted to Beauty,” “How to Look Good Naked,” “The Two Coreys” and the upcoming “One Big Happy Family.”

Coelen recently expanded the company’s business from its core unscripted fare into scripted series with a 13-episode order from Syfy for a U.S. version of the British dramedy “Being Human.”

He also launched a management division and ended a branded-programming partnership with Omnicom Media Group.

It is not clear what Coelen — a top reality agent before joining RDF — will do next, but he has stressed that he wants to be entrepreneurial in his endeavors.

Znak, an 18-year ITV veteran who is controller of factual entertainment at ITV Studios, will relocate to Los Angeles and begin her new job in April. ITV will not directly replace her but will appoint an executive to take over factual entertainment and entertainment.

Znak joins an increasingly long list of U.K. executive talent relocating to the U.S. to work for U.K. producers. Last year, the BBC’s most senior drama executive, Jane Tranter, moved to Los Angeles, taking “Doctor Who” executive producer Julie Gardner to work alongside her to run BBC Worldwide’s U.S. production division.

ITV Studios’ managing director Lee Bartlett, an American and a former Fox executive, said the latest move is a great opportunity for an executive of Znak’s caliber.

“When Natalka told me about the chance to move to L.A. to expand her career and experience living in my hometown, I certainly couldn’t say anything but what a great opportunity this would be for her and how well she will do there,” he said.

Nellie Andreeva reported from Los Angeles; Mimi Turner reported from London.