Adam Fogelson has been named chairman and Donna Langley co-chairman at Universal Pictures, ending months of speculation over who would succeed chairs David Linde and Marc Shmuger following a disappointing summer.
Fogelson, the former president of marketing and distribution, and production president Langley are widely respected players in Hollywood and have been rising stars at the studio for some time. Vice-chairman and COO Rick Finkelstein will work closely with both as a strategic advisor.
The announcement is timely. Universal top brass are smarting from the poor performances of high profile summer releases Land Of The Lost and Funny People, which grossed $49.3m and $51.9m at the North American box office, respectively. State Of Play and Duplicity also underperformed.
The studio currently ranks sixth behind the other US majors in terms of North American market share and has taken 9% of domestic box office for the period January 5-September 27, according to Nielsen EDI.
The irony for the departing Linde and Shmuger is Unviersal enjoyed its two most profitable years under their tenure, however the string of flops put pressure on the leadership to make fundamental personnel changes.
Universal’s biggest hit of the year has been Fast & Furious on $155m and overseas the studio is enjoying success through UPI with Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds on $117m with 18 territories to go.
Rumours continue to swirl over the fate of NBC Universal, which is the subject of takeover rumours by any one of a pack of corporate giants including Comcast.
Fogelson will be responsible for Universal’s worldwide motion picture group, overseeing all aspects of global theatrical operations, home entertainment, partnerships and licensing, finance, HR and communications. He reports to Universal Studios head Ron Meyer.
Langley will report to Fogelson and work with him on developing business and production strategies. She will continue to oversee all production and now assumes responsibility for Focus Features and Working Title films.
Finkelstein will report to Meyer and serve as a key business partner to both Fogelson and Langley. He will continue to have executive oversight for worldwide home entertainment, television distribution, business affairs and strategic alliances.
“Adam is a natural leader with a unique ability to anticipate our audience, understand our business and collaborate with our filmmakers to give us a competitive advantage,” Meyer said. “He is well respected within our community, deservedly so, and together with this team, I believe we are strategically poised for our future.
“The depth of experience of these three executives gives me tremendous confidence in the future success of our business and I trust them to lead this organisation in today’s ever-changing media environment,” Meyer added.
“I couldn’t be more proud that Ron and the company have entrusted me to run Universal Pictures,” Fogelson said. “To continue to work with the best team in the business is an extraordinary opportunity for which I am sincerely humbled. I am grateful for this new challenge and to be collaborating with Donna and Rick, my colleagues for whom I have tremendous respect.”
“Universal has an extremely strong legacy and I look forward to expanding my leadership role and shaping the future of this company,” Langley said. “I feel so fortunate to work with the most dedicated and passionate production team as well as the best creative talent in the industry.”
“This business is changing and this presents real opportunity to adapt our business model to successfully respond to the changing media and economic landscape while still maintaining our quality and creativity,” Finkelstein added.
Meyer added: “Marc and David have made an extraordinary contribution to Universal Pictures for which we are all very grateful. We had our two most profitable years ever under their stewardship and they have been extremely successful expanding key partnerships and building our global business.”
“We’re extremely proud to have had the opportunity to lead such an amazing team at Universal and we’re proud of the work we accomplished together,” Shmuger and Linde said in a joint statement. “While we will miss serving with our colleagues in these positions we look forward to future endeavors with Universal.”
Folgelson has served as president of marketing and distribution since October 2007 and joined the studio in 1998 as vice-president of creative advertising, rising to president of marketing in 2002. His credits include American Pie, Meet The Parents, Fast & Furious, and The Bourne Identity.
Prior to Universal he was senior vice-president of worldwide marketing for Trimark Pictures and before that vice-president of marketing and distribution consultancy The AFA Company.
Langley has served as president of production since January 2005 and in that time has been responsible for 14 films that have passed $100m, among them Mamma Mia!, Wanted, Knocked Up, and the Bourne franchise. Before joining Universal she served as senior vice-president of production, at New Line Cinema where she oversaw such hits as Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.
Finkelstein has been vice-chairman and executive vice-president since July 2006 and served as COO since 2000. He is responsible for special projects for Universal Studios president and COO Ron Meyer and oversees worldwide home entertainment and the television distribution activities of Universal Pictures.
Key deals under his tenure are a $500m pact with Relativity Media to finance more than 40 films over three years and a $100m licensing arrangement with cabler FX for 15 titles.
He also represents Universal on the board of directors of the Motion Picture Association Of America.