Roger Birnbaum stepped down Wednesday as co-chairman and co-CEO of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to become an exclusive producer at the studio. Gary Barber — until now Birnbaum's co-chairman and co-CEO — will serve as the sole head of the company.
Birnbaum will remain in the company's executive suite, producing and developing new projects, the company said in a statement on Wednesday.
He will begin by producing the José Padilha reboot of the 1980s film "Robocop" — slated for release in August 2013 — and has at least three other projects in the pipeline, the company said.
Birnbaum has shared the top title at the studio for two years with Barber, his longtime business partner. Before joining MGM, the duo shared the same rank at Spyglass Entertainment, the production company they founded together in 1998.
The decision was "amicable," an individual with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap. In fact, Birnbaum and Barber plan to take a vacation together this fall, with the trip tied to the international roll-outs of "Skyfall" and "The Hobbit," the individual said.
"Gary and I decided, two years ago, to accept the challenge of joining MGM and restoring the company to its rightful place in the industry," Birnbaum said in the statement. "I have been in the film business a long time, and my greatest passion has always been producing. Now is the time for me to return to what I love to do the most … producing films."
Added Barber: "I respect Roger's decision to return to his passion of 'hands on' producing, and we are thrilled he has chosen to stay at MGM on an exclusive basis," Barber said in a statement. "We have been partners for almost 15 years and we have shared many successes together and I look forward to many more."
Birnbaum and Barber helped engineer Spyglass Entertainment's takeover of MGM in 2010, when the studio behind such classic films as "Gone With the Wind" and the James Bond franchise was mired in some $4 billion in debt.
Since helping MGM emerge from Chapter 11, they returned the studio to profitability by slashing staff and leveraging the library. In 2011, it reported operating income of $79 million and revenue of $699 million.
MGM, which is privately held, is flirting with going public. In July, it filed a draft registration statement for an IPO with the Securities and Exchange Commission
Together, the Birnbaum and Barber have negotiated several pacts with studios. During their tenure as a pair, the studio secured a distribution and co-financing partnership with Sony Pictures Entertainment for films such as "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," "21 Jump Street" and "Skyfall," the upcoming James Bond film.
MGM said it lost money on "Dragon Tattoo" but made a profit on "21 Jump Street."
They also cemented a deal with Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema on "The Hobbit" trilogy. And MGM has partnered with Paramount Pictures on a number of upcoming films, including "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" and "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters."
In April, Birnbaum and Barber renewed MGM's worldwide home entertainment distribution pact with Fox Home Entertainment, extending the agreement through 2016.
They led a push into the television market, developing the scripted series "Vikings" for the History Channel, while adding new programming to its catalog, such as "Teen Wolf" on MTV and a drama series "Fame," for which it partnered with Nigel Lythgoe.