EXCLUSIVE: Clifford Werber, who was tapped as president of Worldview Entertainment to expand the company’s film finance operations just weeks before one of his bosses — former CEO Christopher Woodrow — was fired and subsequently sued by the company, has just resigned. Werber leaves the company at a time when it’s mired in a contentious lawsuit against its former CEO as ugly charges are being levied on both sides.
A source with knowledge of the circumstances surrounding Werber’s departure said that the executive faced a difficult road with outside investors not only because of lawsuits looming over the company from former executives — Hoyt David Morgan (a prior investor and former Worldview CFO) also sued the company in July — but also because of a strategy change at Worldview to focus primarily on fulfilling prior business dealings.
“We wish Cliff well in his next endeavor,” said Worldview COO Molly Connors. EVP Patrick Thompson also reiterated good wishes to Werber. “Private equity is increasingly vital to both indie and studio film financing, and I have the utmost respect for Maria (Cestone), Sarah (Johnson) and the other Worldview investors and wish them well,” said Werber.
Worldview is one of the investors behind the Oscar-buzzed Michael Keaton-starring film Birdman and ended up co-financing only one of what is expected to be four TWC films in a five-year co-financing deal — Justin Chadwick’s period drama Tulip Fever, which stars Christoph Waltz, Dane DeHaan and Alicia Vikander.
The Morgan lawsuit is over a lack of credit given on Birdman as well as money he says he’s owed by Worldview. The lawsuit against Woodrow claims that the former CEO used Worldview as his personal piggy bank and was filed following an internal investigation after a whistleblower raised concerns. Woodrow hit back with a $55 million countersuit against Worldview and its investors claiming multiple damages, including breach of fiduciary duty and tortious interference but curiously the company says it has never been served. (UPDATE: The case remains active in the NY Supreme Court.)
Werber joined the company just before all hell broke loose with legal matters on the executive front. Werber, a former senior exec at 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. who is a recognized expert with international finance and production deals, was hired in May to give a boost to the company.