BREAKING: In a surprising turn of events, longtime Universal President of International Distribution Duncan Clark, a 41-year industry veteran, will step down from his position in August, transitioning to a consulting role with the studio. Replacing Clark is Veronika Kwan Vandenberg, who spent 28 years at Warner Bros and most recently was President, International Distribution and Growth Initiatives, at that studio, before exiting in 2018. She will be based in Los Angeles, reporting to Donna Langley, Chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group.
Langley has just issued a note to staff (read it below).
I understand the parting with London-based Clark is amicable and might have been influenced by the relocation of the post to L.A. With Kwan Vandenberg in Universal City, this effectively moves oversight of Uni’s offshore distribution out of London and back to Hollywood. Niels Swinkels, EVP International Distribution, already is based there, though Simon Hewlett, President of International Marketing, will remain in the UK.
Kwan Vandenberg is a respected distribution executive who joins Universal with a strong track record of success in innovation and fluency in the international marketplace, as well as deep relationships with filmmakers and exhibition. She will work closely with Clark as well as Swinkels and Hewlett over the next months to manage the transition process. She will oversee a highly experienced distribution organization across Los Angeles, London and international territories, which will continue to be led by Swinkels. Kwan Vandenberg also will work closely with Peter Levinsohn, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group’s Vice Chairman and Chief Distribution Officer, and Jim Orr, President of Domestic Distribution, as well as President of Worldwide Marketing Michael Moses.
Clark has been based at Universal in London for 14 years and has had a decades-long career in the international distribution and marketing business. He is a successful, well-liked and highly respected exec across the industry — a smart straight-shooter with an acerbic and appreciated wit and great stories to tell who, personally, has been a joy to work with (my only peeve with him, and he knows this, is that he’s an avid Arsenal supporter).
During his time with Universal, Clark was instrumental in the studio’s success at the global box office. Under his leadership, Universal experienced some of the most profitable years in its history. In 2015, UPI achieved its best year ever by breaking numerous records at the international box office, becoming the first studio to gross more than $4B overseas. Clark managed the international success and growth of the studio’s most notable brands and franchises, including Jurassic World, Fast & Furious, Despicable Me/Minions and films from Blumhouse.
He further helped build Illumination’s profile as a premier animation brand around the world, with extraordinary growth in Japan, China and Latin America. Clark was responsible for building Universal’s China office and recruiting the leadership team, which has led to sustained success in that market. He also helped create a breakthrough investment/distribution organization in Japan with the Dentsu/Toho/Toho Towa partnership.
Most recently, Clark was instrumental in bringing the James Bond franchise to Universal. The studio will release the next film in the iconic series, No Time to Die, internationally. (For more on Clark’s background, see below.)
In Kwan Vandenberg’s most recent role, she had oversight of Warner Bros’ international theatrical distribution activities, including local productions and a special focus on theatrical strategy and partnerships in China. Additionally, she collaborated on the global alignment of business and technology initiatives, while building partnerships to support new in-theater experiences. During her WB tenure, the exec was involved in managing many of the studio’s iconic brands including the eight Harry Potter films, Fantastic Beasts, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit and The Matrix trilogy, among others, and oversaw the release of 350-plus titles that amassed north of $40B.
Here’s Donna Langley’s note that was sent to staff:
I want to share with you some news about upcoming changes to our international leadership. After 14 years with the Company, and more than five years as President of International Distribution, Duncan Clark will be stepping down from his position in August and transitioning into a consulting role. We’re excited to welcome industry veteran Veronika Kwan Vandenberg as our new President of International Distribution, who will be joining us in the coming weeks to lead Universal Pictures International (UPI). Veronika and Duncan will work closely with Niels Swinkels, EVP, International Distribution, and Simon Hewlett, President, International Marketing, over the next couple of months to manage the transition process.
Duncan has been instrumental in Universal’s success at the global box office, and under his leadership the studio has experienced some of the most profitable years in our history. In 2015, UPI achieved its best year ever by breaking numerous records at the international box office, becoming the first studio to gross more than $4 billion internationally. Duncan managed the international success and growth of the studio’s most notable brands and franchises including Jurassic World, Fast & Furious, Despicable Me/Minions, and films from Blumhouse. He helped build Illumination’s international profile as a premier animation brand around the world, with extraordinary growth in Japan, China and Latin America. Duncan was responsible for building Universal’s China office and recruiting its leadership team, which has led to sustained success in the Chinese market. Most recently, Duncan was instrumental in bringing the James Bond 007 franchise to Universal, and the studio will release the next film in the iconic series, No Time to Die, internationally. Duncan is respected across the industry by those who have had the privilege to work with him, be it colleagues, filmmakers or our partners in exhibition.
Veronika is a highly respected distribution executive who joins us with a strong track-record of success in distribution innovation, a strong fluency of the international marketplace, as well as deep relationships with filmmakers and exhibition. In her most recent role, she had oversight of Warner Bros. international theatrical distribution activities, including local productions and a special focus on theatrical strategy and partnerships in China. She also collaborated on the global alignment of business and technology initiatives, in addition to building partnerships to support new in-theater experiences. Veronika was involved in managing many of Warner Bros. iconic film series including the eight Harry Potter films, Fantastic Beasts, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, and The Matrix trilogy, among others.
Veronika will be based in Los Angeles and report to me. She will oversee a highly experienced distribution organization across Los Angeles, London and international territories which will continue to be led by Niels. She will also work closely with Peter Levinsohn, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group’s Vice Chairman and Chief Distribution Officer, and Jim Orr, Universal’s President of Domestic Distribution, as well as Michael Moses, Universal’s President of Worldwide Marketing.
We know that change is hard, especially at a time like this, and we are committed to sharing information and updates with you regularly.
We are so grateful for Duncan’s years of leadership. While he’ll still be working with us for some time, please find time to thank him for his years of dedication to the growth of our Company. Please also join me in welcoming Veronika when she joins in the coming weeks.
Here is more on Clark’s history:
Clark began his career in 1979 as Director of Marketing for Cinema International Corporation, the original Paramount/Universal joint venture, working with such titles as Monty Python’s Life Of Brian, Escape From Alcatraz and the original Star Trek movie. Segueing to Director of Marketing for United Artists in 1980, Clark worked on such films as Raging Bull, Heaven’s Gate, The French Lieutenant’s Woman and For Your Eyes Only — the latter beginning his longstanding relationship with Bond producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli.
When UIP was formed in 1981, Clark became its Director of Marketing, handling titles like ET, Indiana Jones, Terms Of Endearment, Poltergeist, Octopussy and A View To A Kill. He became head of sales and marketing in 1985.
In 1987, Columbia Pictures’ David Puttnam hired Clark to be VP International Marketing. Based in New York, he worked on Someone To Watch Over Me, Housekeeping and Roxane, among others. After Dawn Steel replaced Puttnam, Clark had a hand in Brian De Palma’s Casualties Of War, as well as the digitalized version of Lawrence Of Arabia and Terry Gilliam’s Baron Munchausen.
When Sony acquired Columbia/TriStar in 1989, Clark was VP of Marketing and moved up to EVP International Marketing in 1991, based in LA. In 1996, he became President of the International Company. All told, before leaving Sony in 2000, Clark worked on such titles as In the Line of Fire, Prince of Tides, Sleepless in Seattle, Field of Dreams, Steel Magnolias, A Few Good Men, Groundhog Day, Bad Boys, A League of Their Own, Boyz N the Hood, Bugsy, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Jumanji, Last Action Hero, My Girl, Men in Black, As Good as It Gets, Sense and Sensibility, Erin Brockovich, Charlie’s Angels, Single White Female and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
From 2000, Clark held producing/consulting roles and taught at UCLA and USC. His marketing consulting credits from the period included Steven Spielberg’s War Of The Worlds and Munich, and Bond pic Casino Royale.
In 2006, Clark joined Universal Pictures International as EVP Distribution/Operations and in 2014 was named President of International Distribution.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.