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Inside Move: Col Pix prexy’s in talks to exit studio

Co., exec in discussions; prod'n deal an option

After nearly 3½ years as chief of the studio’s production team, Columbia Pictures prexy Peter Schlessel is planning to step down by year’s end.

Schlessel’s exit is still at the discussion stage at the studio, which wants to keep him in place through December. Among the options being examined is a production deal that would see him remain at Sony.

Schlessel was plucked to become Col’s production president in summer 2000. Move was unexpected: Although Schlessel headed Sony specialty arm Screen Gems with Clint Culpepper, he cut his teeth making acquisitions and financing deals, not overseeing productions.

His hire as deputy to Col chair Amy Pascal presaged a run of hits that gave Sony its best year ever in 2002. Schlessel was credited with overseeing deals such as those that allowed Col to make “Adaptation” (with Intermedia holding most foreign rights); acquire foreign on “Terminator 3”; and hold the line in this year’s Tobey Maguire flap that threatened to derail the actor’s return in “Spider-Man 2.”

In January, Schlessel was promoted to Col president, with Matt Tolmach and Doug Belgrad promoted to production co-presidents.

Calls to Schlessel’s office late Wednesday were not returned.

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