In a move that ends weeks of speculation and will have confirmed the suspicions of many in the industry, Stewart Till has been appointed chairman and chief executive officer of United International Pictures (UIP).

The announcement was made today by Rob Friedman, chief operating officer at Paramount Pictures and vice chairman of the Motion Picture Group, and Marc Shmuger, vice chairman of Universal Pictures. Till will replace UIP's outgoing head Paul Oneile, who leaves next month.

Till's arrival at UIP, the international theatrical releasing arm of Paramount and Universal, follows cuts at Signpost Films, the worldwide film production and distribution company he founded a year ago. Till had hoped to mould Signpost in the likeness of PolyGram Filmed Entertainment (PFE), where he served as president of international from 1992-99. However his ambitions were thwarted when backer CDP Capital Communications demanded cuts at Signpost's London and Los Angeles offices in response to a lack of investing partners.

In a joint statement, Friedman and Shmuger said: "Stewart has established a terrific reputation as one of the leading figures of the European film industry, and we are delighted to welcome him to UIP. He brings an incredible knowledge of the business, extensive relationships with film-makers and producers, and a dynamic leadership style that will set the bar for this next stage of UIP's success.

"We also want to thank Paul for leading UIP through a period of significant achievement over the past six years, including the resolution of the European Commission's exemption proceedings, and the extension of the UIP franchise from both studios. During that time, the company has enjoyed great success at the box office - culminating in last year's record $1.9bn - and is destined for another record year in 2003. He will be greatly missed, but we respect his decision to step down and we wish him the very best."

"I am truly excited about joining such a dynamic company that has been so impressively managed by Paul Oneile, Andrew Cripps and their colleagues," Till said in a statement. "I look forward to being involved in the distribution and marketing of a unique and impressive slate of films."

Prior to establishing Signpost, Till served as president of Universal Pictures International from Feb 1999 to Feb 2000. Before joining PFE he was BskyB's head of movies following the merger of Sky and British Satellite Broadcasting in 1990, with responsibility for managing Sky Movies Plus and The Movie Channel, having served as Sky Television's deputy managing director since 1988.