EXCLUSIVE: Josh Berger, President and Managing Director of Warner Bros UK, Ireland and Spain and President of Harry Potter Global Franchise Development, has decided to step down from his posts after working for the company for more than 30 years. The well-liked and respected veteran will depart Warners in December, but will remain as an advisor to senior management until the middle of 2021 for the Harry Potter franchise. Berger is an executive producer on the third installment of the Fantastic Beasts film series and the upcoming BBC documentary Fantastic Beasts: A Natural History, among other projects. An announcement regarding Berger’s succession is expected to be made soon.
On why he’s making this move now, Berger tells me, “I’ve been at Warner Bros for 31 years. I’ve spent as you know, my entire career here, and I’ve been unbelievably fortunate to be with one company in lots of jobs in lots of different countries in lots of different parts of the industry. I really feel like I’ve done, in some ways, much more than I ever imagined I would and it just felt like now was a good time to maybe get off that moving, very intense train and try my hand at other things.”
Berger will continue to produce and will also explore other entrepreneurial activities in industries he loves, including the restaurant business. The avid cyclist is also an investor in fold-up bike company Brompton Bikes.
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Gerhard Zeiler, Head of International, WarnerMedia said, “Josh is one of the most respected people in the industry. He has been integral to the ongoing success of our Warner Bros businesses in the UK, Ireland and Spain, and has been an incredible steward to the Harry Potter franchise. He was also the first Warner Bros country manager, pioneering the model which shapes the international organization today. It is fair to say, that thanks to his leadership and energy our company is for sure better off today. I respect his desire to take on new challenges and, along with all of our colleagues across the company, wish him the very best.”
Industry reacting to Berger’s departure include Harry Potter producer David Heyman who tells Deadline, “Josh is unique in his understanding of both the business and the creative side of the business and has been relentlessly supportive of me and all the creatives I know. He’s very practical and realistic but he has also got a can do attitude and makes things happen, looking for solutions and looking for possibilities. His compassion, incisive mind, breadth of knowledge and sense of humour will be sorely missed.”
Idris Elba says, “Josh and I have had the pleasure of working together for a while now, and if it wasn’t for Josh I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to sit on the BFI board. I’ve admired his work ethic and leadership at both the BFI and during his many years at Warner Bros, and I know, like me, he’s always loved the magic of filmmaking. But more importantly, like me, he’s thought long and hard about how to make our creative industries more successful and how Britain can influence the world to embrace diversity and be more tolerant. When you look at the news today, nothing could be more important. What else can I say? He’s left a hell of a legacy and I look forward to seeing what a difference that trademark energy and enthusiasm can make next!”
As President and Managing Director, Warner Bros. UK, Ireland and Spain, Berger was responsible for overseeing Warner Bros’ business activities in the three territories, and as President of Harry Potter Global Franchise Development he led Warners’ expanded creative partnership with JK Rowling, overseeing one of the industry’s most successful global franchises.
As country manager for the UK and Ireland, Berger was instrumental in the expansion of the company’s activities across film, TV and video games. During that time, he played a relevant part in over 350 theatrical releases in these regions.
Berger started at Warner Bros in 1986 as an intern at the international TV arm of Lorimar-Telepictures (which was bought by Warners in 1989). After working in a number of leadership roles in Paris and Madrid, Berger relocated to the UK 24 years ago to oversee all TV activities for EMEA. There he made a number of landmark deals with all forms of TV media, in addition to equity investments and co-productions.
In 2002, he became the company’s first Country Manager (UK and Ireland), setting the template for a management model which integrates the disparate divisions in a territory under one leader and a single corporate structure. The model was an early demonstration of the value of a “one company” approach and was subsequently rolled out to seven key territories.
Berger added management of Spain to his responsibilities in 2009, and in this capacity, has overseen the transformation of the Spain team into a hub for world-class Spanish-language productions, including such successful theatrical releases as Lo Impossible, Palmeras En La Nieve and Villaviciosa De Al lado.
In 2012, he was instrumental in the acquisition of Leavesden Studios, a £100 million investment which was the first studio of its kind to be built in the UK in 70 years when it opened, and the only studio facility outside the U.S. to be owned and operated by a Hollywood studio. Leavesden is also the home of the Warner Bros. Studio London – The Making of Harry Potter.
Recognizing the need to support underrepresented groups and create development opportunities in the creative industries, in 2013 Berger set up the multi award-winning Warner Bros Creative Talent program to develop diverse, emerging talent from all backgrounds, identifying and incubating a pipeline for the UK and Ireland’s creative industries, in film, TV, games and theater.
Since 2014, Berger has also managed the expansion of the Harry Potter global franchise effort, working closely with partners inside and outside the company on numerous initiatives, including the Fantastic Beasts film series; the Harry Potter Studio Tour; Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions at Universal Studios in Florida, Hollywood, Japanand Beijing; video game label Portkey Games; the stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child; and the franchise’s direct-to-consumer platform, the Harry Potter Fan Club.
In addition to his Warner Bros responsibilities, Berger was appointed Chairman of the British Film Institute in 2016, having been a BFI Governor since 2011. He announced his decision to step out of the Chairman role earlier this year.
He is also a Board Member of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art; Chairman Emeritus of Chickenshed Theatre Trust; a Member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts and the British Screen Advisory Council; and a Director of the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
In 2012, Berger was appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, one of the highest-ranking honors bestowed by the Queen, for his outstanding services to the UK’s creative industries.
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