EXCLUSIVE: 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. While 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.
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