German fund seeks end to troubles

Former Studio Babelsberg topper Thierry Potok has been named CEO at VIP Medienfonds, becoming the troubled film fund and production company’s fourth chief exec since 2005, when then-CEO Andreas Schmid was arrested on suspicion of tax evasion.

Potok replaces Peter H. Riedel in what VIP called a planned change of command, adding that Riedel had a fixed-term contract.

Recent VIP co-productions have included Todd Haynes’ “I’m Not There” and Frank Oz’s “Death at a Funeral.”

Potok, a former Vivendi exec who restructured Studio Babelsberg when it was still owned by the French conglom, will focus on “film and communication,” the company said.

His first task will be to rebuild the company’s reputation and business model after the criminal prosecutions of Schmid and his partner and former VIP head Andreas Grosch.

VIP was also recently hit by a legal dispute involving another former chief, Dirk Specht, and a controversial deal with London-based financier Brass Hat Films.

Riedel took the reins at VIP in September after Specht was sacked.

Specht had been in the post since June 2006, when he replaced Grosch, who, like Schmid, was under investigation for tax fraud.

In November, Schmid received a six-year sentence and Grosch a two-year suspended sentence. Both are appealing.

Formerly a private investment film fund, VIP was forced to change its business model after the German government introduced legislation clamping down on tax-sheltering funds.

VIP’s investors are unable to withdraw their money from the fund until 2014, and the company is continuing production even without the benefit of tax breaks.

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