Neeson to exit Fox Int’l post

Exec declares: 'It's time to pursue new opportunities'

SYDNEY — After 14 years with 20th Century Fox, the last three as prez of the studio’s international theatrical division, Scott Neeson is heading for the exit.

Neeson confirmed Monday he is leaving Fox within two weeks, declaring, “It’s time to pursue new opportunities. I have had a great run.”

It’s rumored that he’s destined for a high-level position at Sony. He is highly regarded by worldwide distribution and marketing head Jeff Blake and international chief Mark Zucker and would work closely with Tom Sherak, a partner at Revolution Studios, Sony’s top supplier. Sherak and Neeson were former colleagues at Fox.

The Aussie-born exec won’t reveal his next move until after he takes a four- or five-week break, saying, “I have not signed anything.”

Fox has not yet set succession plans. In the interim, Fox Intl. prexy Stephen Moore will manage the theatrical division day-to-day.

“We will examine our options, both internal and external,” added Moore, indicating one possible scenario would be to hire a senior marketing exec, an area that is one of Neeson’s strengths.

Leaving on high note

Neeson is exiting Fox on a high note after masterminding the day-and-date launch of “X2: X-Men United” in 93 markets — the studio’s widest ever simultaneous release. Sci-fier has rung up $190 million internationally and is yet to open in China.

“This decision was a protracted one and something about which I gave considerable thought over a period of months,” he said. “You cannot walk away from a company after 14 years without mixed emotions.”

Co-chairmen Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman and Moore “respect my choice and have given me their blessing,” he added. “Jim and I worked together closely for seven years to build up the international division.”

Neeson would not comment further on his reasons for leaving but it’s an open secret in the industry that he has been unsettled since the restructuring two years ago.

Neeson, who used to report to Gianopulos, found himself answering to Moore, who was given oversight of Fox’s international theatrical ops as well as home entertainment.

Marketing work

Then early last year senior marketing exec Mitch Yankowitz ankled and Neeson had to become more directly involved in marketing.

In a statement Gianopulos said, “Collaborating with Scott over so many years has been both an honor and a pleasure. His contributions to the division in terms of leadership and tone saw us through a long list of innovative campaigns, which led to an equally long list of theatrical successes in the international marketplace. He had an ease about his management style that allowed people under him to flourish and it is the very team he built that is the legacy he will leave behind.”

Rothman said, “It is always sad to bid farewell to someone with whom you have worked side by side for a considerable length of time. I am pleased for Scott because I know he is happy with his decision but he will be missed.”

Neeson began his Fox career in 1989 as general manager of the then joint venture Hoyts Fox Columbia TriStar Films in Sydney. He relocated to Los Angeles in 1993 as VP of international marketing and was later upped to senior VP and exec VP in 1997. He became president of the division in 2000.

He led the marketing for blockbusters “Titanic,” “The Full Monty,” “Braveheart,” “Die Another Day” and “Ice Age” and was noted for his strong relationships with talent.

“Scott has made an enormous contribution to the success of Fox internationally,” Moore said. “He will be missed as a friend and a colleague but has told us that he wants to take this opportunity to pursue other avenues, which we entirely respect. He leaves behind a strong and experienced team who will continue to dedicate themselves to emulate the success experienced in recent years.”

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