COO leaves to pursue other opportunities

Rick Sands ended his two-plus year stint at MGM by stepping down from his chief operating officer post Wednesday.

The studio said Sands is leaving to pursue other opportunities in entertainment and content. Sands declined comment.

The move had been expected ever since Mary Parent took the reins of MGM’s worldwide motion picture group earlier this month, thus taking over many of Sands’ duties (Daily Variety, March 26).

Speculation swirled that the two executives had clashed, but insiders contend that Sands never interacted with Parent, and that he’d made the decision to leave the Lion before she was hired.

MGM chairman-CEO Harry E. Sloan hired Sands, a former COO of DreamWorks and Miramax, in January 2006 to revamp the Lion’s theatrical marketing and distribution infrastructure and maximize its 4,100-title library. MGM’s stripped-down approach to distribution, which included eliminating field offices in key markets, yielded few hits — among the exceptions was “Rocky Balboa,” which earned $156 million worldwide.

During his tenure, Sands established a home entertainment partnership for MGM with Twentieth Century Fox and developed the studio’s worldwide TV sales and digital media divisions.

“We appreciate Rick’s contributions in helping to revitalize MGM over these past two years,” Sloan said. “He has helped us to meet the formidable challenge of rebuilding MGM’s operations and securely positioned the studio with a strong foundation for continued growth and renewal. We wish Rick continued success in all of his future endeavors.”

In addition to his DreamWorks and Miramax stints, Sands also served as executive VP and chief financial officer for Hallmark Entertainment, where he was in charge of the company’s day-to-day financial, business and legal affairs activities. He began his showbiz career in 1978 at Columbia Pictures, where he was VP of distribution.

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