Col’s Zee calls it quits, takes Davis prexy post

Veteran Columbia Pictures executive Teddy Zee is ankling his executive veepee/production post Dec. 1 to take over the No. 2 slot at 20th Century Fox-based indieprod shingle Davis Entertainment, it was confirmed Thursday.

Zee, a veteran of 12 years combined at Columbia and Paramount Pictures before that, said the move will be amicable on all sides, but is fueled by his desire to take a more hands-on approach to film production.

“(Davis Entertainment chieftain John Davis) is a really hard worker who’s phenomenally productive and very well placed right now to get movies made,” Zee said Thursday. “I feel like I’m in a perfect situation to segue into being an actual film producer rather than someone who facilitates getting films produced … I think it’s time I got some actual credits under my belt.”

Lingering loyalty

Zee said he remained at Columbia out of loyalty to fellow Sony Pictures Entertainment executives and Columbia prexy Amy Pascal, with whom Zee worked especially closely. He also had a particularly strong interest in getting “The Replacement Killers,” the American feature debut of Hong Kong action icon Chow Yun-Fat, through the post-production process to help executive producer John Woo and first-time director Antoine Fuqua. (The Columbia release is scheduled to open in February 1998.)

“Of course I’m hopeful that all the talent that I’ve worked with here and at Paramount will stay in close touch with me at Davis,” Zee added.

Zee will take on the presidency at Davis Entertainment, serving as Davis’ right hand and overseeing much of the company’s development and production activity. The shingle’s deal at Fox is exclusive and covers both film production (on a first-look basis) and television development.

As prexy at Davis, Zee will also bring his management experience to running a staff that includes recently named exec VP Wyck Godfrey (who came over to Davis from Horizon Entertainment earlier this month Daily Variety, Oct. 3) and VP’s Craig Berenson, Anya Kochoff and Brooke Brooks.

Longtime plans

Zee’s exodus from SPE’s Culver City lot had been rumored for some weeks in advance of its occurrence, and Zee himself confirmed that he and Davis had been in informal discussions about the transfer for quite some time.

Neither Pascal nor any other SPE executive offered comment on Zee’s possible successor in the exec veepee slot.

Zee began his showbiz career at NBC, where he worked from 1979 to 1982. After obtaining an MBA from the Harvard Business School and serving a brief stint at management company Touche Ross & Co., Zee was hired at Paramount in 1985 as a creative executive. During his five years there, Zee rose to win sr. VP/production stripes under then-studio prexies Sid Ganis and Barry London.

In 1990, Zee ankled Paramount to move to Culver City as Columbia’s exec VP/production, a post he held for nearly seven years. While at the studio, Zee worked on such high-profile projects as “Anaconda,” “Fools Rush In,” “The Devil’s Own,” “The Cable Guy” and “First Knight.”

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