Legendary Entertainment CEO Leaves After Sale to China's Wanda

  • Producer says company is in stable hands year after purchase
  • His departure precedes U.S. opening of ‘Great Wall’ next month

Thomas Tull.

Photographer: Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg

Thomas Tull, who founded Legendary Entertainment and sold the company to China’s second-richest man for $3.5 billion last January, is stepping down.

Jack Gao, a senior executive for billionaire Wang Jianlin’s Dalian Wanda Group Co., will be acting chief executive officer while Legendary seeks a full-time CEO, according to a statement Tuesday. Tull will remain founding chairman and retain a stake in Legendary.

The purchase of the Hollywood filmmaker marked a first for a Chinese company and gave Wanda a movie business to go alongside its U.S. theater chain, AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. Legendary was co-producer of major box office hits, like “Jurassic World” and “The Dark Knight,” but its latest U.S. release “Warcraft” struggled at the U.S box office.

“After a year of transition, I know that the company is stable with great leadership, so at this point I am able to leave and pursue the new interests and endeavors I have been planning,” Tull said in an e-mailed statement.

The company’s next big release, “The Great Wall,” opens in the U.S. on Feb. 17. So far it has generated $199 million worldwide, according to researcher Box Office Mojo. The picture probably needs to do $400 million in worldwide sales to be a financial success, according to Jeff Bock, box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations Co. BoxOfficePro.com forecasts the movie will do $68 million in the U.S. through its full run.

“Warcraft,” a $160 million production, was Legendary’s only domestic release in 2016. The film pulled in $47.4 million in U.S. sales while going on to collect $433.7 million on strong international receipts, including in China, according to Box Office Mojo. Wanda planned to spend more marketing “The Great Wall,” Peter Loehr, the film’s producer, said in an interview in December.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.