Tom Rothman resigned as co-chairman and chief executive officer of News Corp.’s Twentieth Century Fox movie studio, ending an 11-year partnership with Jim Gianopulos, who will remain as sole chairman and CEO.
Fox will also separate its Los Angeles film and television production units, New York-based News Corp. said in a statement yesterday. Gianopulos, 60, will oversee the film division, while TV production co-chairmen Dana Walden and Gary Newman will report directly to Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey.
The resignation of Rothman, 57, who helped oversee the two top-grossing films of all time, “Titanic” and “Avatar,” follows broader executive changes at News Corp. as the company prepares to separate its entertainment and publishing units. Fox finished last at the box office in 2011 among the major studios and has moved up one spot to fifth this year, generating $853.6 million.
“I do need some new challenges and to write a new chapter” after more than 18 years at the studio, Rothman said in a memo to staff. Rothman’s resignation is effective Jan. 1, the company said.
Together, Rothman and Gianopulos oversaw 2009’s “Avatar,” the biggest movie ever with $2.78 billion in worldwide ticket sales, according to researcher Box Office Mojo. As a senior executive at Fox, Rothman played a major role in “Titanic,” the 1997 movie that generated $2.19 billion globally, second on the all-time list.
The small-picture Fox Searchlight label generated a string of hits, from “Slumdog Millionaire,” which won the Oscar for best picture, to “Black Swan” and “Juno.”
Rothman was the outspoken and gregarious half of the management team, while Gianopulos is known for a quiet, deliberate manner.
“Jim has been an equal driving force in bringing some of the greatest films of all time to audiences around the world,” Carey said in the statement. “I am confident that Jim will take our film business to new heights.”
With more than a decade as co-chairman, Rothman was on the job longer than most studio chiefs, said Tom Sherak, who worked with him and Gianopulos during the 1990s as Fox’s head of domestic distribution.
“In our business that’s a lifetime and a half,” said Sherak by telephone, who now runs Revolution Consulting Services. “These things usually happen sooner in a run.”
Other News Corp. executives have departed since June, when the company said it will divide in two. Jonathan Miller left last month as the company’s chief digital officer. David Haslingden, chief operating officer of Fox Networks Group, will leave at the end of the year.
News Corp. rose 31 cents to $24.67 at the close of New York trading yesterday and has gained 38 percent this year.