UIP vet Ashmore ankles

Vet's departure stuns colleagues

United Intl. Pictures’ Southeast Asian supervisor Steve Ashmore has abruptly left the company — apparently a victim of a cost-cutting campaign put in place following MGM’s withdrawal from the international distribution co-venture.

UIP execs who gathered in L.A. last week to plan for the release of “Mission: Impossible II” were told that Ashmore would depart, but the company has not officially announced his exit.

The 19-year UIP vet’s ankling stunned many of his colleagues, particularly as he relocated from Singapore to Australia last October when UIP decided to shift its regional HQ to Sydney.

“He has been a great company man and a straight-shooter,” said one Hollywood exec who dealt frequently with Ashmore, who was VP of sales, overseeing UIP’s operations in Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

Contacted in Sydney, Ashmore declined to discuss the circumstances of his departure.

But studio sources say his position has been eliminated as part of UIP’s mission, mandated by the joint venture partners Para-mount and Universal, to slash overhead to cover the loss of MGM, whose films will be handled overseas by 20th Century Fox. UIP officials could not be reached for comment.

Ashmore told Daily Variety, “I am honored to have worked with UIP for the past 19 years and to have lived in nine countries on four continents, working directly with more than 40 territories.

“That provided me with wonderful exposure to understanding films’ potential as well as how to best motivate the local teams of people (who were) working that product. I look forward to applying that experience for the future benefit of our business.”

Ashmore gave no hints about his next career move.

Douglas Lee, UIP’s marketing VP for Southeast Asia, who moved to Sydney with Ashmore, remains there.

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