UIP president and chiefoperating officer Andrew Cripps is to head up Paramount's internationaltheatrical distribution operation.

The first major appointmentto the division is a coup for Paramount chairman Brad Grey and his team in thewake of the studio's agreement with Universal in splitting off from their jointinternational distribution venture UIP.

Sources confirmed the movewas taking place, however it remains unclear when the London-based Cripps willbegin work in his new post. His UIP contract is due to expire on Dec 31, 2006.

Cripps is widely respectedin the industry and has just come off a hugely successful year in which UIPregistered more than $2bn in box office receipts for the second consecutiveyear.

He joined UIP as executiveassistant to the general manager of Japan in 1986 before rising to vicepresident of sales for South-East Asia two years later.

In 1990 he moved to Londonas senior vice president of international sales before becoming president andchief operating officer in 1999.

Last September Paramount andUniversal announced they would set up their own direct internationaldistribution operations in 15 key territories beginning in January 2007.

UIP, the studios' jointinternational releasing venture that was originally set up with MGM and UA in1981, will continue to manage all countries outside of North America notcovered individually by the studios under chief executive officer Stewart Till.