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The biggest story in Hollywood Friday came when Tom Rothman, the longtime co-chair of Fox Filmed Entertainment, resigned from his post. News Corp, which owns 20th Century Fox, also announced that the film and TV units will operate separately from now on, as the company prepares to split into two next year.
Rothman worked for the company for 18 years and his resignation will be effective on Jan. 1, 2013. During his career with the studio, he oversaw the creation of Fox Searchlight and the releases of Avatar and Titanic. His tenure was one of the longest of any current movie mogul.
“I’m proud as hell of that run. But I’ve done the same thing, at the same place, for a long time (indeed, in the 75 year history of our studio, no one has supervised movies for longer except Darryl Zanuck himself). I do need some new challenges and to write a new chapter,” he wrote.
Reuters reports that Jim Gianopulos, Rothman’s co-chair and CEO, will take over, while the TV operation will be fully independent. That department is headed by Dana Walden and Gary Newman, notes Deadline and they will no longer have to report to Gianopulos.
While Fox and Rothman issued statements that put an amicable face on the situation, Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter note that the buzz around the industry was far from that. Rothman was reportedly aggressively seeking to become the new head at Universal. He is also described by some as hard to work with and “autocratic,” as one executive told THR.
Sources for THR note that Rothman and Gianopulos may have not known about News Corp’s plans to make the film and TV operations separate entities as late as Tuesday and only found out Wednesday.
Deadline notes that the move comes after Fox experienced a lackluster summer, aside from the fourth Ice Age film. The most embarrassing fact from the summer may have been the unexpected success of Ted. The comedy was directed by Seth MacFarlane, who has a relationship with Fox through Family Guy and his other animated hits. But the studio decided to pass on the live-action film and it went on to be a success for Universal. On the positive side, Fox did pass on Battleship, which was one of the biggest bombs of the year.
There were also rumors that Rothman was not a fan of the new distribution deal with DreamWorks Animation.
As for News Corp, the company is splitting in two in 2013, with the TV and film operations under one company. The other company will have the newspaper, magazine and book publishing operations.