After less than two years in the post, Marc Shmuger is stepping down as CEO of EuropaCorp at the end of the year. The former Universal Pictures chairman was hired on a renewable six-month contract and last extended his tenure at the end of June.
Shmuger told the staff Friday of his imminent departure from the company, which he joined in 2016 to replace Christophe Lambert. There is no immediate plan to name a successor. EuropaCorp founder Luc Besson will assume interim CEO responsibilities starting Jan. 1.
Europacorp and Shmuger confirmed to Variety that the exit is both voluntary and amicable. But it comes as the company faces a financial storm intensified by the disappointing performance of sci-fi epic “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.” EuropaCorp posted record losses of $135 million during the last financial year and recently posted a loss warning, and its stock value has been falling dramatically. Edouard de Vesinne, the deputy CEO of the company, was ousted in September.
Shmuger will exit his seven-figure-salary post when his current six-month contractual period runs out. Sources at EuropaCorp said he had told the board back in June, before the release of “Valerian,” that this term would be his last.
Speaking to Variety, Shmuger said his departure coincided with the company’s scaled-back strategy, which he presented to shareholders last month. The shift in strategy will see the studio reduce its slate drastically and produce two to three English-language films a year and two French movies a year. To climb out of the red, the company is also considering selling its French TV activity and its 500-title French film library, which it bought from Roissy Films in 2007, a source close to EuropaCorp said.
Shmuger will continue his relationship with the company as a senior advisor as well as producer on Besson’s “Anna,” which will be distributed in many territories worldwide by Lionsgate.
During his tenure as CEO, Shmuger has overseen the sale of non-core assets, raised funds through new equity infusions, restructured the company’s debt, and reduced overhead costs by a third. He also structured a theatrical distribution deal with STX and a home-entertainment deal with Lionsgate, and assembled the financing and distribution for “Anna.”
“From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank Luc and my amazing colleagues in Paris and Los Angeles for the opportunity I’ve had to lead this incredible company,” Shmuger said. “Driven by Luc’s vision, and through the strength of some of the best executives I’ve worked with in my many years in the business, I leave EuropaCorp with great friends, memories and relationships which I will always cherish.”
“Marc has been a friend for over 20 years and is one of my closest advisors,” Besson added. “He came into EuropaCorp at a crucial time for the company and brought much-needed leadership, experience, industry knowledge and vision – all of which he provided to me personally and to the company in extraordinary ways, for which I’ll be forever grateful.”