Germany's Studio Babelsberg has been rocked by the news that a second executive - Arthur Hofer - is to exit the production centre near Berlin, following the departure of studio boss Friedrich-Carl Wachs at the end of February (Screendaily February 14).

Hofer, who moved Babelsberg from Munich's Bavaria Studios in 1997, told Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel that he wished to dissolve his contract "at the next possible date". He added that his decision was "closely linked" to the resignation of Wachs with whom he had shared "ideas and visions" on the expansion of the studio complex.

Hofer made a name for himself in the German film industry in 1998 by initiating the Studio Babelsberg Independents (SBI) concept, aimed at giving a helping hand to younger producers with ambitious "edgy" projects. The scheme has supported projects such as Andreas Dresen's Night Shapes, Andreas Kleinert's Paths In The Night and Volker Schloendorff's Berlin competition entry The Legends Of Rita. Last year, Paths In The Night became the first German film to open the Directors Fortnight at Cannes.

The SBI model entered a new phase at the beginning of 1999 when it was established as an independent operating company in partnership with the Brandenburg Investment Bank ILB. The bank gave SBI a $1.5m (DM3m) loan to add to the $4.5m (DM9m) provided by Babelsberg. In September, Hamburg-based Vereins und Westbank agreed to provide financing for a portfolio of ten national and international feature projects which SBI wanted to co-produce up until the end of this year.

While the future of SBI is now uncertain, a replacement has been found for Wachs. Hartwig Schulte-Loh, currently managing director of German book retailer Dussmann, will be responsible for administration and finance at the studios from May. He will operate on the same level as the studio's other two managers - Gerhard Bergfried, responsible for post-production, and Rainer Schaper, responsible for art direction, who will both oversee overall co-ordination of film production.