Exec joins foreign finance-prod'n company

Former Turner Pictures Worldwide Distribution head Robert Lazarus has been named chief operating officer of Cloud Nine Entertainment, the year-old foreign finance and production company topped by partners Gary Levinsohn and Mark Gordon.

Lazarus, who takes over the newly created position Jan. 6, will oversee day-to-day biz activities, corporate administration and strategic development; he’ll work closely with chief financial officer Robert Leger, whose duties will expand to include executive VP of business affairs.

Cloud Nine specializes in putting together international co-production deals on major studio films. Recent projects have included “The Relic,” produced by Gale Anne Hurd, and “The Flood,” which Levinsohn and Gordon are producing. Both will be distributed in the U.S. by Paramount, where Cloud Nine has a first-look deal.

Levinsohn said Lazarus will be involved in all phases of the company’s business, but a major part of his job will be managing the company’s relationships with its foreign co-production and distribution partners.

Levinsohn said the company plans to become more involved in overseeing international marketing and distribution strategies. “We want to insure the servicing of the deal, instead of just dumping the internegative and then calling and asking, ‘How’s it going?’ ” said Levinsohn.

At Turner, Lazarus developed joint-venture distribution partnerships in most of the major overseas territories.

The appointment also may signal Cloud Nine’s intention to start a foreign sales arm to handle territory rights the company acquires as part of its co-financing deals. Currently the company goes through foreign sales outfits like Polygram and Summit.

Expansion plans

At the same time, the principals did not rule out the possibility of expanding into other areas of production, including television.

“Our primary business is motion picture finance and motion picture production,” said Gordon. “We want make sure our primary business is solid, with the right managment team in place, before we jump into new areas.”

Lazarus said he believes Levinsohn and Gordon have indentified an area of the industry that was underservered by making A-level product available to independent foreign distributors.

“At Turner were were allowed to be entrepreneurs as well as executives,” Lazarus told Daily Variety. “Cloud Nine is clearly now at that level.”

Lazarus joined Turner in 1990 as director of international distribution, eventually becoming executive VP and general manager. He left the company Nov. 8 when the plug was pulled on Turner Pictures in the wake of the Turner/Time Warner merger.

Prior to Turner, Lazarus headed Vista Street Entertainment as president of worldwide distribution. Before that he was executive in charge of homevideo distribution at RKO Pictures.

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