Jere Hausfater has stepped down as CEO of Essential Entertainment less than three years after he founded the financing, production and sales company with chairman and Palo Alto businessman Jim Kohlberg.

John Fremes has taken over as president of worldwide distribution as the days count down to AFM and it is understood Hausfater is in talks to serve as a consultant.

In a brief telephone conversation Fremes and producer Neil Kaplan, with whom Kohlberg formed the sister company Essential Pictures a year ago, stressed that the Essential stable was poised for growth and would announce new initiatives shortly. Hausfater had not returned calls last night.

A statement from Kohlberg and Essential Entertainment read: “We acknowledge and appreciate Jere’s contribution to Essential over the past three years, and look forward to a continued relationship with him as a consultant and valued advisor to our team. 

“Recently, Essential has made soon to be announced investments, specifically in television production, and we are looking at further expansion in other media ventures. I have full confidence in the existing management team, and am excited about the future of Essential.”

Hausfater is the former executive vice-president of Miramax International and head of worldwide sales and acquisitions at Intermedia. He served as a longtime senior executive at Buena Vista International.

His sales slate at Essential included Ed Zwick’s wartime Resistance drama Defiance, the comedy Middle Men that launched in Cannes, Love And Other Impossible Pursuits, Solomon Kane, My One And Only, and action thriller The Diplomat, which stars Kevin Costner and is in pre-production.