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Lightstorm prez exits

Larry Kasanoff, one of the partners and masterminds behind the Lightstorm Entertainment multi-pic scheme, has ankled the company, throwing into question the future of the global enterprise once touted as the epitome of all future indie deals.

Highly placed sources say that Kasanoff’s exit as president stems from “the unraveling” of some of the Lightstorm foreign-partner relationships that he helped orchestrate — particularly Italy’s Artisti Associati.

However, Kasanoff and ICM chairman Jeff Berg both insisted that his parting was due to philosophical differences with his Lightstorm partner Jim Cameron, the company’s chairman.

“Jim and I built something terrific together, but I am at heart a company builder and producer,” Kasanoff said. “Jim wanted to concentrate on narrowing his focus. I have some ideas on how to grow and on the kind of company I want to work on.”

Cameron, in a short statement, said Lightstorm now will focus on a few event films that he will direct and/or produce. “Larry will pursue his vision of a broad-based entertainment company,” Cameron said.

Cameron begins production on the Arnold Schwarzenegger starrer “True Life” in 12 weeks.

“This is a decision they both made between themselves,” Berg said. “It has absolutely nothing to do with any unraveling of the foreign rights or relationships. All of the foreign deals are secure and in place.”

Ironically, Kasanoff’s leave-taking comes at a time when Berg was shopping Lightstorm’s $ 500 million, five-year deal at 20th Century Fox as the model for a similar deal built around producer-director Roland Joffe during last month’s Cannes Film Festival.

Under terms of the deal, Artisti guaranteed to contribute a reported 8% of the production budgets while Germany’s Jugendfilm would put up 9% and Japan’s Nippon Herald would put up 12.5%.

United Intl. Pictures reportedly is another partner in the foreign deal, putting up 30% of each picture’s budget. Artisti exex in Italy could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

20th Century Fox puts up a fixed percentage of the negative cost of each film up to a certain cap, estimated at around 30% of $ 50 million. The studio will also pick up 100% of the P&A costs for domestic distribution and also has distribution rights in France.

As of Tuesday, Cameron was reportedly in ongoing meetings with Fox exex, who were eager to pick up those territories left open as a result of Lightstorm pulling back from its ambitious plan to sell overseas rights to its product market by market.

This would leave Lightstorm’s relationship with Fox much closer to a conventional indie producer arrangement. Cameron could not be reached for comment on the reported discussions.

“This bodes well for Fox,” said one source close to the talks.

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