Michael Williams-Jones will step down from his role as president ofMiramax International on Mar 1 after less than a year in the role.

His departure comes as the rumour mill about the future of Miramax hits overdrive. Company co-chiefs Harvey and Bob Weinstein are expected to wrap their lengthy contract talks with Disney in the near future.

Miramax sources said Williams-Jones would be replaced in the interim by thedivision's executive vice president Jere Hausfater.

Williams-Jones will leave after what is expected to be a record 2004for the division in which 38 titles grossed close to $580m.

In a joint statement Miramax co-chairmen Harvey and Bob Weinstein said: "We aretruly grateful for Michael's considerable contributions to Miramax's Internationalsuccess this year.

"Michael joined the company to lead and further develop our internationalinterests and he has more than achieved these goals. We will miss his alwayswell-reasoned and candid opinions. He leaves us after 37 years as a truepioneer of the international motion picture industry. We wish Michael well in anyand all future endeavours."

Prior to joining Miramax, Michael Williams-Jones rose tothe presidency ofUnited Artists International in the late 1970s and subsequently built and ranUIP as president and chief executive officer for 15 years.

"After a long career with the majors, I was intrigued by the opportunity towork with Bob and Harvey," Williams-Jones said.

"Over the past 25 years they have both been at the forefront of independentcinema and watching how they operate from the inside has been a revelation.They are indefatigable and intense but their unbridled passion for film andextraordinary talent is what really distinguishes them."

He went on to add: "Whatever direction the future takes for them I have nodoubt that they will be out there leading from the front as usual with greatimagination and flair and of course their trademark drive."