Majority owner Arnon Milchan 'wants to run the company himself'
New Regency is looking to go retro in an exec shakeup that includes the departure of co-chairs Hutch Parker and Bob Harper, the possible installation of former Paramount Pictures production prexy Brad Weston and the return to a more hands-on role for founder and majority owner Arnon Milchan.
Parker and Harper will likely ankle when their contracts expire at the end of 2011, amid talk of differences with Milchan over the company’s direction. In an email to Variety, Parker said Milchan “wants to run the company himself, more the way he did in the early days, which is a significant change from what Bob and I were brought in to do.”
Meanwhile, Milchan is in talks with Weston, who’s been working under a production deal at Par since losing his exec position at the studio to Adam Goodman in 2009. Weston would take the CEO title in replacing Parker and Harper. Weston was widely credited with Paramount’s 2008 slate, including genre pic “Cloverfield,” which brought television vet J.J. Abrams onto the studio lot. Exec also worked at Dimension Films, which produced pics including “Sin City,” “Bad Santa” and “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” during his tenure.
Sources say the 66-year-old Milchan wants to increase the number of films Regency makes and is seeking more involvement in the company he launched in 1991. The Israeli-born mogul signed the company’s first distribution deal with Fox in 1998 after seven years at Warner Bros., where he produced five to six movies per year including “The Devil’s Advocate,” “A Time to Kill” and “The Client.”
“It’s the right step for him and for us,” Parker wrote. He also said he and Harper will finish up with films they’ve been working on and come on to other projects as producers.
Harper, formerly a longtime Fox exec, has been at the helm of Milchan’s New Regency since 2007; Parker joined him as co-chair in May 2008 after leaving his post as vice chairman of 20th Century Fox Film Group. Since at New Regency, the duo produced close to a dozen pics for the shingle, including “Knight and Day,” “Role Models,” and “Big Momma” franchise reboot “Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son.”
Regency, in which Fox owns a 20% stake, has yielded a prosperous partnership for the studio. In January, the two companies extended their distribution pact through 2022.
New Regency’s long history, management team and distribution arrangement have appealed to investors as well. The company, with JPMorgan acting as lead bank, recently went into the market to renew its $500 million credit line. Parker said he didn’t think the exec change would affect the acquisition of that credit facility.
New Regency has been a staple on the Fox lot since 1998, when the companies inked a worldwide distrib pact. Since then, Regency has produced 55 films and generated box office of more than $5.3 billion. Harper and Parker’s segue to New Regency cemented the strong ties between the companies, as Harper had logged 22 years as a Fox film exec, while Parker had a 13-year run there.
With such deep ties, news of Harper and Parker’s plan to exit caught the biz by surprise.
In addition to fielding the credit-line renewal, the execs had recently taken steps to expand the company’s scope into TV again with plans to relaunch the Regency Television banner.
Upcoming pics include the Anna Faris-Chris Evans comedy “What’s Your Number?,” to bow this month, followed by “In Time” in October and “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked” in December. Summit will also unspool New Regency’s “The Darkest Hour” in December. In August, Brad Pitt became attached to Regency drama “The Gray Man” after months of rumored interest.
Last year Regency partnered with Fox on the Ed Zwick-helmed romantic comedy “Love and Other Drugs,” toplined by Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway.