schlessel_peterEXCLUSIVE: In a surprise move, Peter Schlessel will leave his post as Sony Pictures president of worldwide affairs to become president of GK Films, Graham King’s company. I’m told the move will take place over the next few weeks.

Sony_pictures_logoSchlessel has spent 21 years at the studio, and acted as a  consigliere specializing in making deals that have spanned most of the studio’s divisions. Those have ranged from domestic distribution pacts on films like District 9 and the Michael Jackson documentary This is It!, to offshore distribution on the upcoming Joe Wright-directed Hanna, Terminator Salvation, Book Of Eli and the Showtime series The Tudors, to real estate investments and Sony’s recent lot renovations, to a recent DVD distribution deal for Harvey and Bob Weinstein’s The Weinstein Company.

Among those deals was to bring King’s GK Films over to Sony through the Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group. GK Films finances its product and Sony provides global distribution and P&A for a distribution fee. The exit is amicable, I’m told. Schlessel wanted a greater involvement on the creative side and wanted to be more entrepreneurial. He couldn’t go up—Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal aren’t going anywhere—so is going out. He will continue to work with SPE because of the GK Films output deal.

King, with backing from his partner, Texas-based Tim Headington, is looking to expand and has begun to do so in TV with the Starz series Camelot. King has the ability to green light films, and the Sony deal gives him a distribution machine to run his films through. So far, King has placed the Johnny Depp-Angelina Jolie thriller The Tourist to be distributed by Sony as well as The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the children’s book adaptation that Martin Scorsese will shoot in 3D. King hasn’t yet set domestic distribution on the Colin Farrell-Keira Knightley-starrer  London Boulevard, the directing debut of The Departed scribe William Monahan, and The Rum Diary, which also stars Depp.