Lloyd ankles top U.K. Pathe post

Exec to start indie prod'n co., Gallic leadership questioned

LONDON — Alexis Lloyd is stepping down as managing director of Pathe Entertainment, the French-owned film production and distribution company which holds one of the U.K.’s three lottery franchises.

Lloyd is understood to be launching his own indie production company, backed by French parent Pathe; his company will be based in London and Los Angeles.

Insiders say he will be replaced as U.K. managing director by Francois Ivernel, who currently heads Paris-based Pathe Image, the group’s production and rights acquisition arm. Ivernel is a close ally of Jerome Seydoux, Pathe’s multimillionaire owner, and oversaw Pathe’s deal with DreamWorks to co-finance Aardman’s film “Chicken Run.”

Lloyd plans to line up key foreign distributors alongside Pathe to back his unnamed shingle, which will focus on Brit and American projects.

Ivernel will take over from Lloyd after the Cannes film festival in May.

The replacement of one Frenchman by another at the head of an official U.K. lottery franchise is unlikely to be greeted with enthusiasm among British filmmakers, who have long suspected that Pathe’s decision-making is controlled from the other side of the Channel.

Pathe Pictures, the production arm, has access to over $50 million in lotto coin over six years to co-finance British movies. With the franchise nearing its halfway stage, the company’s pics so far include “An Ideal Husband,” “Ratcatcher,” “Love’s Labour’s Lost” and “Kingdom Come.”

But while Pathe arguably has the most successful commercial and creative track record to date of the three franchises, it still has a prickly relationship with the local filmmaking community, owing partly to suspicions about its Gallic ownership and partly to Lloyd’s idiosyncratic style. Pathe sources said that Ivernel had been chosen for his expertise and not for his nationality.

Nonetheless, the company has a highly rated management team, including distribution head Maj-Britt Kirchner and production head Andrea Calderwood. After a lackluster couple of years its box office results have taken a dramatic upswing in recent months, with “The Blair Witch Project,” “Sleepy Hollow,” “Topsy-Turvy” and “All About My Mother” demonstrating the company’s range. Upcoming releases include Aardman’s “Chicken Run.”

This exec shuffle comes as Pathe is in the midst of negotiating a U.K. distribution deal with fellow French player Canal Plus. This will either take the form of an output deal or some kind of joint venture, with Canal Plus taking 50% of Pathe’s distribution arm. Canal Plus is not angling for a stake in Pathe Pictures, the lottery production arm.

Canal Plus is in the midst of building a pan-European distribution network, recently taking control of Bac Distribution in France and Tobis in Germany.

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