Tom Rothman has stepped down as the chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment, he announced in a letter to staff on Friday obtained by TheWrap.
Rothman will officially leave Jan. 1, 2013, and Jim Gianopulos, currently co-chairman, will take over as sole chairman and CEO.
“During my time at Fox, thanks to you, we have together accomplished more than I ever imagined possible, from the founding and nurturing of Searchlight, to overseeing the two biggest films in box office history, to consistently ranking at the top among studio profitability year in and year out (including our most recent strong fiscal year), and, most of all, making dozens of exceptional films that I believe will stand the test of time,” he wrote.
Rothman has been at the company for 18 years, mostly as co-chairman with Gianopulos. The two have served at the top of the company since 2000 and in that time, Fox released the two highest grossing films of all time — "Titanic," for which it handled international distribution, and "Avatar."
“I know that Jim G. and all of you will continue our long tradition of winning ways, and I will be rooting hard for you,” he wrote. “I will also be around until the end of the year to help with the transition and celebrate some of the hits we are about to have."
Before ascending to the top of the studio, Gianopulos was the President of the film group, president of production for Twentieth Century Fox and founder and President of Fox Searchlight.
Rothman's departure coincides with a reorganization of studio operations at News Corp., which is separating the film and TV production units. Twentieth Century Fox Film will now include the main studio, Fox Searchlight, Fox 2000, Fox Animation, Fox International and Fox Home Entertainment.
Twentieth Century Fox Television, which also includes Fox Television Studios and Fox 21, becomes an autonomous unit within News Corp. That means Dana Walden and Gary Newman, co-chairs of FOX TV, will now report directly to News Corp. COO Chase Carey.
At Fox, as at most studios, TV accounts for a much larger percentage of the company's profits.
"With a track record of hits like 'Homeland,' 'Glee,' 'Modern Family,' 'American Horror Story' and 'Sons of Anarchy,' they are unquestionably one of the best creative teams in the television business and we look forward to working more closely with them," News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch wrote in a note to staff.
Fox's film studio has had a rough two years, including a tough summer at the box office. Recent movies that have disappointed include “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” and “The Watch,” an ensemble comedy that fell flat. Fox also passed on "Ted," Seth MacFarlane's feature debut, which was one of this summer's biggest successes.
Animation has been a bright spot, from the success of the "Ice Age" franchise to the newly announced distribution deal with DreamWorks Animation.
Over the course of Rothman's tenure at Fox, the studio won three Best Picture Oscars and grossed more than $25 billion at the box office. In his note to staff, Murdoch praised Rothman for his years of service.
"We would like to extend our appreciation to Tom for the critical role he has played in building our film studio into an industry leader," Murdoch wrote. "His legacy includes many of the biggest films of the last few decades as well as the creation of our indie powerhouse Fox Searchlight."
The Aussie mogul struck an upbeat tone about the future of the studio, and voiced his support for Gianopulos.
"With a robust slate of upcoming films and Jim’s continued leadership, our film unit is well positioned for future growth and couldn’t be in better hands," he wrote. "We are confident that Jim’s stellar business and creative acumen will take our film business to new heights."
There have been numerous shake-ups at News Corp., Fox’s parent company, this year, with the impending split between the entertainment and news divisions into two companies.
News Corp.’s chief digital officer Jonathan Miller also stepped down in recent weeks.