Paul Donovan to succeed as CEO of Odeon & UCI Cinemas.

Odeon & UCI Cinemas has announced that Rupert Gavin is to step down as CEO after more than eight years in the role, to pursue “a range of other challenges”.

He will be replaced by Paul Donovan, a former executive at Vodafone and Eircom, the Irish telecoms group. Donovan joins on Jan 27 and succeeds Gavin as CEO on Feb 17.

It is a year since attempts to sell the company were abandoned by owner Terra Firma Capital Partners, the private equity group headed by former EMI boss Guy Hands.

There have been several attempts to sell or float Odeon UCI but buyers have not met Hands’ asking price.

Gavin said: “After eight years leading Odeon, I feel that now is the right time to step down as CEO and to move on to a range of other challenges. I will be building my own business, as well as taking on several Board roles.

“It has been a privilege to work with the Odeon team for eight years, and I am very proud of what we have achieved together. It is a credit to all of them that Odeon has become a world class, fully digital cinema operator, and I expect the business will continue to go from strength to strength under Paul’s leadership.”

Gavin will continue as an adviser to Terra Firm, and has been appointed non-executive director  to one of its portfolio companies, The Garden Centre Group. He will also spend more time at Incidental Colman, his privately-owned theatre and entertainment group.

Donovan said: “Odeon is a great brand with strong market positions and exciting prospects for the future. I look forward to leading the business through the next stage of its development, and to working closely with the management team and with Terra Firma to execute the strategy for driving Odeon’s ongoing future success.”

Gavin, a former head of the BBC’s commercial arm BBC Worldwide, built Odeon UCI into the largest multiplex operator in Europe during his tenure.

Hands, chairman and chief investment officer of Terra Firma, said he was “grateful” for Gavin’s “hard work and commitment”. He added that Donovan would help “continue to invest to transform and grow the business”.

It marks the latest top level move in the UK exhibition business. Cineworld CEO Steve Wiener is to step down as the cinema major completes a merger with Polish-based rival, Cinema City International.

Cineworld also acquired the boutique Picturehouse Cinemas chain, which has encountered some competition hurdles.

Vue Entertainment was sold last year to a Canadian pension fund, while the Everyman chain floated on the London stock market.