Mason ankles Universal Pictures

Move shrinks U's London presence

LONDON — Graeme Mason is ankling his post as the London-based president of acquisitions for Universal Pictures.

His departure follows the shake-up in U’s acquisitions team, as a result of the merger between USA Films and Good Machine to form U’s new specialized arm Focus.

Mason was offered a new production role affiliated to Working Title Films, which is owned by U. But he has chosen instead to take a break from the studio to review a wider range of options.

He is rumored to be on the shortlist to be chief exec of Australia’s Film Finance Corp., replacing the departing Katrina Hughes. He may also be a candidate to head Channel 4’s restructured film unit, following the closure of FilmFour Ltd.

His colleague Lee Magiday will remain as a London-based acquisitions exec, although her role is likely to switch from U to Focus.

Mason has worked at Universal since the studio took over Polygram Filmed Entertainment in 1998. He was previously a PFE lifer, joining the company’s sales arm in 1991 before moving across to acquisitions in 1996.

His exit will leave the studio without a senior production and acquisitions exec in Europe, although Focus will maintain a presence. In future, Euro producers and sales companies will have to deal with a combination of execs at U in Los Angeles, the London-based video arm and foreign theatrical distrib UIP.

Mason was involved mostly recently with Alan Parker’s “The Life of David Gale,” now in post. He was also working on the development of the Nick Hornby/Emma Thompson script “Fast Forward” and the Julian Fellowes script “Pure Dead Magic,” as well as acting as point man for Focus on the Sylvia Path biopic “Ted and Sylvia.”

His recent acquisitions deals included picking up most foreign rights to “Charlotte Gray,” “Gosford Park” and “In The Bedroom” for Japan and Germany, and “Elling” for Scandinavia.

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