Bingham Ray and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) have dotted the i's and crossed the t's on the contract which sees Ray named president of MGM's speciality film unit United Artists (UA). He will begin his job on Sept 1, 2001.

As per Ray's location, UA's main offices will relocate to New York where Ray will oversee all aspects of its operations. Ray will report to Chris McGurk, vice chairman and chief operating officer of MGM, the executive who acquired a majority interest in Ray's October Films in 1997 when he was COO of Universal Pictures.

Ray spent nearly ten years at October which he co-founded in 1991 with Jeff Lipsky and Amir Malin; during his tenure there, he developed close relationships with film-makers such as Mike Leigh, David Lynch, Lars Von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg and John Dahl and distributed hit specialised films such as Secrets And Lies, Breaking The Waves, The Apostle, The Last Seduction and The Celebration.

Having left October - which was sold by Universal to Barry Diller's USA Networks and merged with Gramercy Pictures into USA Films - in 1999, Ray took time off and recently returned into the fray as a producer, joining New York-based commercials and music video production company Crossroads Films as a partner with a remit to launch a feature film division.

Indeed Ray had struck a three year, first-look production arrangement with UA earlier this year and was close to sealing similar relationships with overseas entities for international distribution. The Crossroads arrangement with UA will continue once Ray has moved over.

UA was previously run by MGM worldwide distribution head Larry Gleason and worldwide marketing head Gerry Rich but both were essentially ousted from the studio when McGurk appointed Bob Levin as president, worldwide marketing and distribution, above them in June this year.

Ray will oversee the 2001-2002 UA release slate which includes current specialised hit Ghost World, Scott Kalvert's coming-of-age drama Deuces Wild, Matt Dillon's directorial debut City Of Ghosts (aka Beneath The Banyan Trees), Roman Coppola's CQ, Victor Salwa's supernatural thriller Jeepers Creepers, comedy Igby Goes Down starring Susan Sarandon and Ryan Philippe, actioner Plague Season with Kurt Russell and hit Bosnian drama No Man's Land directed by Danis Tanovic.

Ray will also be reunited with Robert Duvall who directed October's biggest ever hit The Apostle. UA will release Duvall's second feature as a director Assassination Tango which is part of the company's US distribution arrangement with Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope.