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Imperial dumps lead pic lender

The head of one of Hollywood’s independent film lenders has been unsaddled.

Steven Leibowitz, a senior vice president and manager of entertainment lending at L.A.’s Imperial Bank, was quietly let go last month.

The bank, which has been a key player in small production finance, is sending out mixed signals over Leibowitz’s departure: According to regional veepee Chuck Avis, the bank is committed to having a continued presence in the industry. But the bank said there are no plans to replace Leibowitz.

Avis said, “We have no less than three productions in process with budgets ranging from $ 3 million to $ 20 million, with a number of others in the pipeline for documentation. We’re looking to do much more.”

While Avis denied the dismissal was a result of downsizing the bank’s staff to cut costs, Avis passed questions about the Leibowitz position to John Kirsch, head of employee relations.

“The bank has been trying to get as cost-efficient as we possibly can,” said Kirsh, in a short statement.

Leibowitz said, “I’m very proud of what was accomplished at the bank since coming there 3 1/2 years ago, and look forward to offering the same kind of services in the not-too-distant future,” though he declined comment on future plans.

By all appearances, Imperial appears to be in good shape, with $ 3 billion in assets and a fairly low level of delinquent loans.

Even though the recession-racked California economy has hurt many banks with large real estate loans, Imperial “is adequately capitalized and in good shape,” said Paul Bauer, of the banking industry’s Bauer Report, in Ft. Lauderdale.

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