Maj-Britt Kirchner is stepping down as managing director of the UK's Pathe Distribution at the end of the year, Francois Ivernel, managing director of Pathe UK, announced on Monday.

Deputy managing director Ian George, who joined Pathe with Kirchner in 1999 from Warner Bros.' UK theatrical arm, will replace the Swedish-born executive. Kirchner is to retire.

"I always planned to retire at 55, so I've done a year's overtime," Kirchner told Screendaily. "If someone wants my advice or if my experience is valued on an ad hoc basis, I would be more than happy. But I am not planning to act as a consultant on a regular basis because you have to be in the business every day to keep your finger on the pulse."

George, previously marketing director at Warner Bros., was promoted to deputy managing director in January after Kirchner decided to leave the company. He joined Pathe as marketing director. The duo's biggest successes at Pathe included Chicken Run, Sleepy Hollow and The Blair Witch Project.

"Maj-Britt has made an important contribution to this company and we are sorry to see her leave," said Ivernel. "We hope she will be able to continue working with us in some capacity. Although Maj-Britt is irreplaceable, we couldn't have found a better person than Ian to move into the role of managing director. We expect a seamless transition as Ian has been preparing for this position for the past year."