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U Consumer Products prexy ankles amid shuffle

Cynthia Cleveland is stepping down from her position as president of Universal Studios Consumer Products Group, effective July 1.

The move follows a decision last week to realign the consumer products and the television distribution divisions under the Universal Pictures umbrella (Daily Variety, March 19). Both divisions will now report to Rick Finkelstein, president and chief operating officer of Universal Pictures.

The realignment comes as U’s new French owner, Vivendi, steps ups its control over the studio.

“Under Cynthia’s leadership, our consumer products business has demonstrated consistent success and worldwide growth. She developed two of the largest programs in the company’s history — ‘The Lost World: Jurassic Park’ and ‘Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.’ We appreciate her many contributions to our company,” Universal Studios president and chief operating officer Ron Meyer said Tuesday in a statement.

“After carefully considering the opportunities that were offered to me within Vivendi Universal, I made the difficult but personal decision to choose another path,” Cleveland added.

Cleveland joined Universal Studios in 1996 as president, merchandising and licensing, with responsibility for retail development activities and direct marketing programs across the company. She was elevated to president, Universal Studios Consumer Products Group, in October 1998 and later assumed additional responsibility for games development for the company.

During Cleveland’s tenure, the consumer products business more than doubled, fueled by growth in the games business, retail programs and international market development.

Int’l success

Cleveland also played a key role in the expansion of the Consumer Products Group’s presence worldwide, establishing offices in the U.K., France, Germany, Canada and Japan in support of its agent relationships and strategic partnerships in over 45 territories. She was also instrumental in coming up with new ways to exploit the company’s library, including a consumer products line of Classic Monsters based on the studio’s rich scary movie legacy.

Before joining Universal Studios, Cleveland served as president and CEO of retail toy chain Imaginarium. Prior to that she was president of Teleflora and vice president of marketing/girls toys for Mattel Toys.

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