By Lisa Richwine and Ronald Grover
LOS ANGELES, Sept 14 (Reuters) - The co-chairman of the 20th Century Fox film unit, Tom Rothman, will step down at the end of the year as the News Corp studio separates its film and television production businesses, the company said on Friday.
Rupert Murdoch’s media giant will consolidate film operations under Jim Gianopulos, Rothman’s co-chair and CEO since 2000. The TV studio will operate as a separate unit.
News Corp is shuffling its executives as it prepares to separate into two publicly traded companies in 2013. Newspaper, book and magazine publishing will comprise one company and the Fox television and film properties will be the chief components of the other.
The Fox studio under Gianopulos and Rothman has annually ranked among Hollywood’s most profitable studios. Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch and president Chase Carey lauded Gianopulos in a letter to Fox staffers, saying they “are confident that Jim’s stellar business and creative acumen will take our film business to new heights.”
Rothman said in a statement he had “done the same job, at the same place, for a very long time, and it is time for me to write a new chapter.” He has worked at Fox for 18 years, a time when the studio released the two highest-grossing films in history, “Avatar” and “Titanic.”
During his tenure, the studio ranked “consistently at the highest levels of industry profits” and made “dozens of films that will stand the test of time,” Rothman said. “I am extremely proud of that run.”
The film business will house Fox Searchlight Pictures, Fox 2000, Fox Animation/Blue Sky Studios, Fox International Productions, and Fox Home Entertainment. The unit will be called 20th Century Fox Film.
The company’s television production business will operate under the name 20th Century Fox Television. Co-chairs Dana Walden and Gary Newman will report directly to Carey.
This summer, Fox’s animated movie sequel “Ice Age: Continental Drift” rang up huge sales around the world. It had less success with live-action movies including “Prometheus” and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”
Wunderlich Securities analyst Matthew Harrigan said splitting the TV and movies businesses was a logical step.
“The TV business is generally regarded as being more predictable, less hit-driven than the studio business, and management-wise there are not that many commonalities,” he said.