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Universal Promotes Fogelson, Langley in Exec Shake-Up

Ron Meyer to TheWrap: “It was never about the slate, it was about the people and the culture”

Adam Fogelson has been named Chairman, Universal Pictures, the studio announced on Monday. 

In addition, Donna Langley, was named Co-Chairman, Universal Pictures.

The pair will replace studio chairmen Marc Shmuger and David Linde, who led the studio for four years, but whose slate performed poorly at the  box office this year. In addition, the studio faces severely declining revenue in the DVD sector.

TheWrap reported last week that these executive changes were on the horizon. (See Despite Denials, Big Change Looms at Universal.) And indeed, the studio has been a hive of rumor and dissension for the past few months, as speculation over these changes have led to instability within the studio. 

 (Photo from left: RIck Finkelstein, Fogelson and Langley)

In an interview with TheWrap, Universal Studios President Ron Meyer said that he felt he needed to make the move. “I wanted the speculation and rumors to settle down,” he said. “It was never about the slate, it was about the people and the culture. Times have changed, and it’s about changing with the times.”

Decisions will be made by a “triumvirate” of Fogelson, Langley and Vice-chairman Rick Finkelstein, Meyer said.

Asked about his vision for the studio, Fogelson said he wanted to make sure that green light decisions were taken with more attention to the bottom line.

“Some of the films we have made (we should) ask, ‘If things go wrong here – what could happen?’ he told TheWrap. “What we’ve talked about is, does the upside in success justify or offset the huge risk, if things go wrong? Too many of the films, probably, would not have had enough upside, perhaps, to justify the risk.”

Universal has released several expensive dramas this year — ‘State of Play,’ ‘Public Enemies’ among them – that have been either disappointments or moderates successes at the box office, despite significant production and marketing budgets. 

Meanwhile, the shift in the top of the studio’s executive ranks occur on the backdrop of talks between Comcast and NBC-Universal for a possible purchase of the network and studio from General Electric, which TheWrap reported exclusively last week.

Meyer said the decision was not affected by the Comcast negotiations.  " We have no idea what’s going to happen," he said. "This group has been through five complete management changes. Best one we have is now, with NBC. We haven’t been affected by that. If people buy us or don’t buy us, we’re a content provider, that’s not going to change. We’ll operate the way we’ve always operated, with a view to being as profitable as possible."

Asked what kinds of movies she intends to make, Langley said: "In a world of Twitter,  we know our audience is communicating from within the movie theater. The days of fooling an audience into seeing a certain kind of movie are over. What’s exciting to me is we’ll be having converations early in the process about how a movie will be marketed."

The studio said that Rick Finkelstein, current Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer, will work closely with Fogelson and Langley both as a key strategic advisor. 

The studio elected to make the change on the eve of a movie premiere, "Couple’s Retreat." 

Shmuger and Linde signed four-year contracts in January. Their contracts provide for producing deals, but it is unclear if they will transition into that role.

Fogelson, who will report to Meyer, will be responsible for Universal’s worldwide Motion Picture Group.  He will oversee all aspects of the company’s global theatrical operations, home entertainment, partnerships and licensing, finance, HR and communications. 

“Adam is a natural leader with a unique ability to anticipate our audience, understand our business and collaborate with our filmmakers to give us a competitive advantage.  He is well-respected within our community, deservedly so, and together with this team, I believe we are strategically poised for our future,” said Meyer.

Langley will report to Fogelson, and will work with him on developing Universal’s business and production strategies. She will continue to oversee all production, and will also assume responsibility for Focus Features and Working Title films.

Finkelstein, who will report to Meyer, will serve as a key business partner to both Fogelson and Langley, the studio said. He will continue to have executive oversight for worldwide home entertainment, television distribution, business affairs and strategic alliances. 

Previously: 

Despite Denials, Big Change Looms at Universal

Exclusive: Comcast in Talks to Buy NBC-Universal from GE

Top Universal Film Execs Under Scrutiny

A look at Universal’s summer slate — and how it underperformed.