EXCLUSIVE, updated with Relativity statement, 11:31 AM: Rosalind Lawton, a longtime business and legal affairs executive at Relativity Media, has left the company to join Universal Pictures in a similar post, filling the job left open when Masako Ichino retired a few months ago. She has assumed the role of SVP Business Affairs at the studio.
Lawton is the latest in a string of executive departures from Relativity in a year when it entered, and exited, Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Her exit comes amid speculation that Relativity is struggling to meet deadlines for lender payments. The Wall Street Journal reported June 30 that the company was unlikely to make a $30 million scheduled payment to lenders and had been given an extension to a group of hedge funds that purchased the TV operations.
“The story is not true,” said Relativity spokesman Ed Adler at Finsbury. “They did not miss a payment.” The company just added at 11:30 AM that Lawton’s contract was rejected and not renewed: “Relativity elected to reject Rosalind Lawton’s contract as part of the bankruptcy filings. Her departure was planned prior to the bankruptcy and anyone trying to state she left us, especially tying it to something fictional even is false. Hillel Elkins has been Relativity’s head of business affairs since emergence” on April 13.
The company has several films set for release that it is hoping will bring some revenue into its coffers, beginning with Before I Wake on September 9 and Masterminds on September 30. Masterminds is one of the company’s best bets as it’s a comedy that stars Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis. Before I Wake is a fantastical drama that stars Room‘s Jacob Tremblay with Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane.
Lawton had been at Relativity for several years and was promoted to lead the biz and legal affairs department with responsibility for negotiating single-picture agreements that included all rights, talent, acquisition, co-financing and distribution deals. Prior to joining Relativity, she served in biz affairs at Miramax.
In March, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York approved Relativity’s plan to exit Chapter 11. Judge Michael Wiles was swayed in part by an assurance from financier Joseph Nicholas, now the company’s co-CEO and co-chairman, that Relativity is “planning on engaging with bankers to work on the [capital] raise immediately. Already we have interested parties contacting us. They want to start a dialogue as soon as we emerge” from bankruptcy.