Bingham Ray has left his job as president of United Artists, MGM's speciality division.

A key supporter of many European film-makers, Ray has headed UA since August 2001. His contract was due to expire in May, but both he and the studio recently agreed to go separate ways.

"We discussed this last year and mutually decided that Bingham would step down and that it was best to hold off on an announcement until now to allow for better continuity at United Artists. We appreciate Bingham's hard work nurturing award-winning films at UA over the past 2 and a half years and wish him the best," said MGM vice chairman and CEO Chris McGurk in a statement.

Ray said in the statement: "My time at United Artists and MGM has been a wonderful opportunity to work with great filmmakers and films and to get UA headed in an important new direction. I decided with Chris that now is the time to move on."

Executive vp Danny Rosett will now take over UA.

Highlights of Ray's stint at UA included the acquisition of Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine, which was acquired at Cannes in 2002 and went on to win the 2002 Oscar as best documentary. Horror film Jeepers Creepers 2, with $35m in box office, was UA's most successful release last year.

The division had less success with films such as Nicholas Nickleby and Dark Blue.

UA has production deals with John Malkovich's Mr. Mudd; Simon Channing-Williams' Potboiler; Michael Winterbottom's Revolution; and Michael Stipe's Single Cell.