relativity mediaEXCLUSIVE: I’ve just learned that Michael Joe, Universal Pictures’ much valued EVP, has left the studio after 15 years and is jumping to Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity in a senior position. Almost everyone important at Universal is in Cannes for Robin Hood so I can’t gauge reaction. But Joe has been the company’s chief strategy officer, integrally involved in the studio’s business development and strategic planning. universal_logo12_thumbnailWhile continuing to oversee business development, he also directed the company’s digital initiatives, including wireless, interactive games and d-cinema. Plus, he engineered the company’s entry into new markets and technologies and represented Universal on anti-piracy, public policy and MPAA matters. He also managed Universal’s advanced technology group. Joe helped set up Relativity’s $1 billion movie co-financing deal with Universal back in 2008. That’s when Relativity Capital, the partnership between Ryan Kavanaugh’s West Hollywood-based Relativity Media and the New York hedge fund Elliott Associates, was supposed to back at least 75% of Universal’s movies through 2011 — or about 45 films. At the time, Joe was quoted as saying on behalf of Uni, “We always look to manage risk and volatility. A deal like this allows us to do that while keeping distribution rights to the movies worldwide.” It’s a great hire for Relativity, and Kavanaugh.