Disney Vet Sam Neswick Named Chief Strategy Officer for Participant Media (EXCLUSIVE)

Participant Media has named Sam Neswick to a newly created position as chief strategy officer, as the company continues to revamp itself and prepare for continued expansion after an executive office shakeup.

Neswick, who joined Participant last year as a senior VP for strategic planning, “will oversee the company’s strategy, investments, innovation and corporate development,” according to Monday’s announcement. He will also lead strategic partnerships for the company, which finances feature films, documentaries, the Pivot television channel and a digital news and information site, TakePart, company founder Jeff Skoll said.

The promotion of Neswick comes a little more than three weeks after Jim Berk exited under pressure as the company’s chief executive, after Skoll expressed frustration about the slow pace of expansion into foreign markets and the growth of the TV and digital operations. Participant has helped produce several acclaimed films, including “Lincoln,” “The Help,” “Syriana,” and “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” while trying to advance Skoll’s mission of creating entertainment that inspires social change.

“Sam will continue to work closely with me and the senior team at Participant to refine the company’s growth strategy, and identify opportunities that will enhance our reach and help accelerate positive social change around the world,” Skoll said.

Neswick came to Participant from the Walt Disney Co., where he worked in corporate strategy and business development — assessing the same type of broad portfolio of media assets that he oversees at Participant. He helped Disney, among other things, with the acquisition of Lucasfilm, expansion at resorts and parks in Asia and Europe.  He previously had been a management consultant at Bain & Company, after receiving a bachelor’s degree and MBA from Harvard.

The promotion of Neswick is expected to be just the first in a series of moves to revamp Participant, including the appointment of an outside board, completion of a strategic review by McKinsey & Co. and the choice of a replacement for Berk. Those developments were first reported by Variety. The former CEO’s resignation took place immediately, leaving Skoll to serve as head of the company during the search for a permanent replacement.

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