BREAKING: Adam Fogelson, the former chairman of Universal Pictures, has been hired as the Motion Picture Group chairman of STX Entertainment, the mini TV and film studio created by Robert Simonds, TPG Growth, Gigi Pritzker, and Hony Capital. STX has yet to figure on a solid name. Fogelson will be responsible for overseeing eight-to-10 mid-range budgeted ($20M to $60M), star-driven features to be produced, marketed, and distributed in-house. Fogelson’s brother, Noah, currently works at STX as EVP of corporate development and general counsel so it makes perfect sense why he would join the company. Fogelson started out working in marketing with his father Andrew and now gets the chance to work with his brother.
The key hire comes as STX Entertainment has been ramping up at a rapid pace over the past few weeks. It hired former Disney and Fox marketing topper Oren Aviv to oversee motion picture development, production, and marketing at the new film and TV studio. It also hired Universal distribution exec Kevin Grayson as president of domestic distribution; he starts at month’s end. Rich Sullivan, who had been at DreamWorks since 2005, was also brought in as STX’s chief financial officer.
Asked when they would get movies going, STX chairman Simonds said, “We are motivated to put projects in production as soon as possible but they have to be the right projects.” And the way the financials of this deal is structured, they really need to come out of the gate with a box office hit and that means a smart marketing and distribution plan, capitalizing on solid project that has the potential to tap every possible revenue stream — including merchandising and licensing.
Simonds said a priority for the studio right now is to get their staff in place, which includes finding an executive to oversee the TV division. By the way, Steve Elzer (formerly of Sony) has been handling PR for the fledging concern for awhile now.
“There will be significant hires in marketing and production,” added Fogelson. “but there is not a set number. The object is to make it as lean as possible but to do all the things a major studio can do.” There seems as thought there has been kind of a manta implemented by TPG Growth, Pritzker, Hony and Simonds: Respect the capital. Smart way to grow a business. Really the only right way.
From 2009 thru October of last year, Fogelson served as Chairman of Universal Pictures until he was pushed out. During his stint, he oversaw worldwide operations for the motion picture group, including its global theatrical, home entertainment, partnerships & licensing, finance, human resources and communications divisions.
Fogelson said his decision to join STX came from a desire to take all that he has learned and find the best fit. It just so happened to be STX. “As I was looking at the options that were in front of me, this became a very compelling, unique and challenging opportunity,” he said. “This gave me a chance to be able to do all the things I loved most about working at Universal and implement it in a brand new environment and build something from the ground up.”
What’s interesting about this hire is that Fogelson is basically a marketing guy at heart. He actually joined Universal as VP of creative advertising before becoming President of Marketing and Distribution in 2007. He is known as a down-to-earth, level-headed executive and a strong hire for STX Entertainment. He knows marketing and distribution inside and out, so he will likely be an extra layer of wisdom.
I always thought the best chairman would be marketing and distribution guys who grew up inside the business because most of the success really rises and falls upon the ability to sell and distribute the product that is produced. During Fogelson’s tenure as chairman at Universal, he oversaw such films as Ted, Bridesmaids, Contraband, Safe House, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, Snow White and the Huntsman, Identity Thief, Pitch Perfect, Mama, The Purge, Les Misérables. Despicable Me 1 and 2, and Fast and Furious 5 and 6. Other films greenlit while Fogelson was Chairman include Best Man Holiday, Lone Survivor, Ride Along, Non-Stop, Neighbors, The Purge 2 and Lucy. He also greenlit the bomb Battleship and the out of control 47 Ronin, which ended up being his demise at the studio.
Simonds said back in March that they planned to hire 63 people, mostly in marketing and distribution and they are keeping true to their word. The plan was to hit the ground running with four films in the marketplace next year, then six the following year (2016) and then eight a year moving forward thereafter. The average marketing and distribution budget will be $35M domestically. Again, they are keeping true to their announcement.
STX came on the radar in March, after securing financing (which is a revolver financial structure so they can tap money when needed), it made individual deals directly with the nation’s top exhibitors — AMC Theaters, Regal Entertainment Group, Cinemark and Carmike — to secure a set amount of screens each year for the venture’s product. STX is also is focusing on making output deals for home video, pay and other ancillaries. What has yet to be decided is their internatioanl strategy — a foreign pre-sale model or an output deal ala DreamWorks’ business model.