What is the reason for Tom Rothman’s abrupt dismissal after 18 years of service at Twentieth Century Fox?
Individuals close to the situation said that the Fox chairman went after Ron Meyer’s job as head of Universal Studios, and ended up losing the job he has had for more than a decade.
“He went to (News Corp. COO) Chase Carey and overplayed his hand,” said one insider close to the situation.
News Corp. declined to comment. Executives close to the situation insisted the separation was "amicable."
Rothman stepped down on Friday as the chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment, leaving his long-time partner Jim Gianopulos as the sole executive in charge of the movie division of News Corp.
Most oddly, no particular reason was given for Rothman's departure.
The situation that led to the departure was complicated, according to knowledgeable individuals. One senior executive said that Rothman had gone after the Universal job months ago, and it was not the main reason. But he acknowledged that Rothman clashed with Carey.
Another point of tension was Rothman's strong opposition to doing a deal to distribute the movies of DreamWorks Animation, led by Jeffrey Katzenberg. News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch was known to be in favor of the deal, which ultimately did get done.
Rothman is known as a volatile, often explosive tempered executive, while Carey is a straight-laced business executive with a very different style.
The other central reason that several executives cited was low morale on the Fox lot in the wake of the studio's weak performance over the past couple of years.
News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch is focused is on profitability, which Fox continues to maintain, but there is no doubt that the studio has lost its creative momentum in the past couple of years. In addition, there has been exodus of production executives.
Other reasons include the fact that Rothman was less relevant in a restructured News Corp.
Of the mogul duo, Rothman was considered the creative force in moviemaking decisions, while Gianopulos is the business-minded executive and tough negotiator. In a restructured News Corp., Dana Walden and Gary Newman will report directly to Carey, eliminating the need for another executive layer.
But it is entirely unclear whether Meyer’s job is up for the taking. A senior Comcast executive has denied media reports that the company is looking to replace the veteran studio mogul.
Despite that, rumors have been rampant that Meyer will be moved out, including a persistent story, continually denied at Comcast and DreamWorks, that Stacey Snider may be tapped to take the position.