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Focus Features Brings in Majority of FilmDistrict Team Post Shake-Up

Focus co-chief Andrew Karpen out; FilmDistrict's Adrian Alperovich takes No. 2 role

In the wake of the Focus Features shake-up two weeks ago, Comcast-owned parent studio Universal Pictures announced the new leadership of its top-ranking executives at Focus. Not among the new roster is Focus co-CEO Andrew Karpen, who was offered to stay with the company but chose not to re-locate from New York to Los Angeles, where the company will now be headquartered.

Universal has yet to determine how many of the 44 people employed at the New York office will lose their job. It is believed they will stay on board through the company’s transition through the end of the year, according to sources close to the situation.

The Focus re-structuring, which was announced Tuesday, brings in the majority of the team from FilmDistrict, which was absorbed into the former company, with chief Peter Schlessel replacing former Focus CEO James Schamus.

“I am pleased to announce the executive management team that will help me lead Focus Features into its next chapter,” Schlessel said in a statement.  “These executives will work with me in the coming weeks to round out the balance of our staffing needs for the company.”

Just below Schlessel will be FilmDistrict’s Adrian Alperovich, who will continue his role for Focus as chief operating officer. Christine Birch, who also comes from FilmDistrict, will join Focus as marketing prexy, while Jim Orr and Lia Buman transition to Focus from FilmDistrict as heads of distribution and acquisitions, respectively.

The shakeup at Focus is aimed at making the specialty distrib more competitive with its rivals, beefing up its slate with wider-release movies that have more commercial potential, say sources familiar with the strategy.

Retaining their existing roles at Focus are Adriene Bowles, president of publicity and exec VP of marketing, and Jeb Brody, president of production.

Karpen, who has three teenagers in school in New York, decided to remain there with his family. He will stay with Focus through the transition, however.

“After giving this opportunity much consideration, I’ve decided that this is simply not the right time for me to relocate my family to Los Angeles,” said Karpen.  “I’m incredibly proud of all that we’ve accomplished at Focus, and know that the new company will thrive under Peter’s leadership.”

Also staying on through the transition are Jack Foley, Focus’s Gotham-based president of distribution, and marketing head David Brooks, who works in L.A.

Meanwhile, FilmDistrict’s former senior VP of publicity, Elissa Greer, will take on a non-exclusive role as an independent contractor, working closely with Bowles on Focus’s remaining releases through 2014.

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