Legendary Entertainment CEO steps down, China's Wanda takes closer control

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Thomas Tull, the founder and chief executive of Legendary Entertainment has stepped down, the firm said in a statement to Reuters on Thursday, a year after the Hollywood studio was bought by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda for $3.5 billion.

Dalian Wanda insider Jack Gao will for now take the helm at Legendary, the producer behind hit movies like “Jurassic World” and the Batman “Dark Knight” trilogy, putting the Chinese firm more directly in control of the U.S. studio.

Wanda bought Legendary in January last year, helping turn chairman Wang Jianlin into a Hollywood movie mogul amid a drive by China’s richest man to diversify his business empire overseas.

Legendary said in a statement Tull had “resigned”, though would continue in a role as “founding Chairman”. It did not give a reason for the departure.

“Wanda aims to transform Legendary into a next generation studio ... with a far-reaching creative and global platform,” interim CEO Gao said in the statement. “We are thankful to Thomas for his founding vision.”

Wanda has been on an shopping spree in film: it agreed a $1-billion takeover of Golden Globe producer Dick Clark Productions in November, owns U.S. cinema chain AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc AMC.N, and has business ties with Sony Pictures and Sony Corp's 6758.T film unit in China.

Wang has said he aims to bring Hollywood technology and muscle to China, and has expressed interest in the so-called “big six” Hollywood studios.

Gao, who joined Wanda in 2015 after spells at News Corp NWSA.O and Microsoft Corp MSFT.O, is a group senior vice president at Wanda Cultural Industry Group and the CEO of international investments and operations.

Tull said in the statement the firm was now in stable hands after a year’s transition.

Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Joseph Radford