UIP chairman Paul Oneile is expected to announce his departure from the international distribution giant imminently.

London-based Oneile, who is understood to be leaving for personal reasons, has headed the international distribution venture of Universal Pictures and Paramount Pictures since 1996.

UIP president Andrew Cripps is seen as a likely to candidate to head the distributor following Oneile's departure. Oneile, who could not be reached at time of going to press, and Cripps renewed their contracts with UIP last year for five years.

A veteran of the Australian entertainment industry, where his posts included managing director of Hoyt's Entertainment, Oneile moved to London to become president and chief executive of UIP. He became chairman in 1999.

More recently, Oneile saw off the challenge from Universal Pictures International, the international distribution operation built around PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, to take over Universal's overseas releasing. UIP also secured an extension of its exemption from European competition laws from the European Commission.