EXCLUSIVE: Aviron has tapped Tomas Jegeus to be its new CEO. The former 20th Century Fox Co-President of Global Theatrical Marketing & Distribution, Jegeus will seek to broaden the company from a distributor that primarily acquires and releases finished films, to one that will also generate its own film productions as financier, and expand into the international distribution of Aviron titles.
Jegeus, who over the years was involved in such Fox franchise launches as Avatar, X-Men, Kingsman, Planet of the Apes, Ice Age and Night at the Museum, left that studios last year. His exit wasn’t precipitated by the acquisition of Fox by Disney that left so many executives pink slipped. Jegeus said he exited on his own volition after the deal was announced so that he could be home and help his wife Amanda deal with a serious bout of Lyme Disease that dominated their lives the past 18 months.
“The reality of things was that I had to be home; she is moving in the right direction now and the timing felt right to get back into the swing of things,” Jegeus told Deadline. “I don’t mind discussing it because awareness can only help. A lot of the medical community doesn’t acknowledge it as a real disease. We were lucky to have the means to pay for treatments because they are very expensive and many are not covered by medical insurance.”
As Jegeus looked for a new film business to run, he knew Aviron chairman and founder William Sadleir and saw an opportunity in growing Aviron. He said that David Dinerstein will remain President and Greg Forston will continue as President of Domestic Distribution. Both will report to Jegeus, and he has confidence in them.
Aviron has had success as a distributor, but the last time I wrote about the company, it was to divulge that both Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway were upset the distributor didn’t follow through with a promised P&A spend that left each with the worst opening of their careers with the film Serenity. It sounded at the time like CAA, which reps those actors, wouldn’t be rushing to Aviron to do business. Clearly, Jegeus will need that patronage for the expansion into production. Jegeus will begin talking up the town on Aviron’s plans this week.
He said that Aviron is funded by BlackRock Multi-Sector Income Trust, and that will continue for both P&A and marketing, with a separate fund in the works to move Aviron into the production business, which he feels is a vital next step.
“The money is there, or I wouldn’t have come here,” Jegeus told Deadline. “The team is strong here. Financing isn’t the problem, the challenge will be to deliver on the promise of producing and releasing. That’s my big challenge and it’s on my shoulders.”
He will begin to staff up for the development and production division, he said. On the international front, “Aviron will seek to obtain global rights to all content it acquires and produces and to pursue strategic alliances with international sales agencies and distributors to expand its global footprint. Too often, companies that release only in the U.S. or North America leave a lot of money on the table, he believes. Similar limitations exist in distributors that only fill release calendars bidding on films ought when they are finished.
“You can’t wait to find finished projects because you are then basing everything on luck, or that you are smarter than everyone else when you know that other bigger players are seeing stuff too,” he said. “Aviron has often been successful, but in order to be in control of your destiny, you need control over the content you create. You have to bet on yourself.”
Said Sadleir: “Tomas brings a wealth of expertise and relationships in these new verticals, as well as a passion for bridging the gap between traditional models and innovative solutions to the ever-changing landscape of the film marketplace. His addition to the Aviron family at this juncture allows us to amplify our operations, develop our new slate accordingly and be poised for continued success and growth in the future.”
At Fox, Jegeus has directly overseen the distribution and marketing of movies generating in excess of $35 billion in Global Box Office, Aviron said. He has released and marketed films that have collectively garnered 83 Oscars and 217 nominations. Most recently, Jegeus served as President of Fox International Productions (FIP) and all local language production, including US/China co-productions and select English language product. FIP generated over $1.3 billion in international box office.