IFE ousts top exec at MTM

Intl. Family Entertainment moved yesterday to put its imprimatur on newly acquired MTM Entertainment, announcing a major management shakeup that has sent MTM topper Robert Klosterman packing.

Additionally, Republic Pictures syndie prez Chuck Larsen has moved in as head of the company’s domestic and international distribution operations.

The restructuring eliminates Klosterman’s president/chief executive officer post. Larsen (in the expanded role of MTM Worldwide Distribution prexy) and MTM Television development/production prez Bill Allen report directly to IFE CEO Tim Robertson.

IFE has also eliminated the position of chief operating officer Tim Buxton, who has overseen the international arena for the company. Sources say Buxton may be heading back to the U.K. to work on IFE’s overseas cable interests.

In January, MTM TV Distribution president Kevin Tannehill was replaced by Marc Grayson as head of the company’s syndication wing. Grayson will report directly to Larsen.

IFE acknowledged that 15-17 MTM employees in finance and administration have received pink slips. Those staffers were notified yesterday. Robertson said the layoffs will occur over the next 60 days, and those electing to stay on during the “wind-down” period would receive an extra month’s salary as part of their compensation.

The moves come as part of an expected restructuring following the sale of parent company TVS Entertainment PLC to Intl. Family Entertainment. IFE announced in January that it had completed its acquisition of about 95% of TVS’ capital stock for $ 90 million.

Robertson called the departure of Klosterman, who’ll be exiting upon completion of the corporate transition, a “big regret.”

“Bob has done an outstanding job,” said Robertson, who credited the departing exec for his ability to “hold the company together until it was sold. … Unfortunately a company of our combined size just doesn’t need two CEOs.”

Robertson confirmed that Buxton, who joined MTM in 1989 as exec VP and added COO stripes last year, was offered an unspecified international post.

“Tim’s a very able executive and one of the better international people in the business,” Robertson said. “My sincere hope is we’ll be able to keep him.”

Part of IFE’s aim in purchasing MTM was to create synergy between the two entities. As the first step, Robertson said IFE will produce a series version of “The Man From Snowy River” in Australia this summer and offer it simultaneously on the Family Channel and in syndication via MTM.

Larsen, who will assume his MTM responsibilities next week, acknowledged the “reception in the syndication community has not been what it should be” for “Evening Shade,” MTM’s off-net sitcom.

The company’s firstrun live-action kids series “Xuxa” has been cleared in more than 70% of the country. Robertson noted the show will receive a firm production commitment once it reaches 75%.

In the case of the high-cost firstrun sitcom “The New WKRP in Cincinnati,” Robertson admitted MTM has “to do some work” in increasing advertising and promotion for the show. He also conceded the company is “not really exploiting” the show’s perf in the important 18-34 and 18-49 male demos.

No replacement has been named for Larsen, president of Republic Pictures Domestic Television Distribution since 1987.

As recently as a month ago (Daily Variety, Feb. 3), Larsen emphasized that he was staying put at Republic. Rumors first surfaced last fall that he was headed to IFE.

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