Indie’s co-founder is out

London stepping in

Just a year after producer Steve Stabler formed Destination Films with former DreamWorks exec Brent Baum, Stabler will step down as the company’s CEO and move into a four-year, first-look deal with the company.

Barry London, Destination’s president of distribution and marketing, will become the company’s chairman and CEO, while chief operating officer Brent Baum will take on additional duties as president.

Talk circulated late Sunday that Stabler’s decision comes because the company has been overspending on overhead and that its financing is slipping away. But Stabler flatly denied that.

“There is absolutely no truth to any rumors of that type,” Stabler told Daily Variety. “We have actually spent less than we were supposed to in the first year. My decision comes purely because I am tired of being an executive and want to get back to producing movies — which is what I do best.”

Destination’s first film, “Bats,” opened with a poor $4.7 million showing and has to date grossed just north of $9 million.

The term-length of Stabler’s deal matches the amount of time remaining in the five-year, insurance-backed financing agreement Destination established last year with Paris-based AXA and London-based AIG, two insurance companies. AXA and AIG’s policy guarantees Destination’s $100 million bond issue (Daily Variety, Oct. 25).

Stabler’s new deal with Destination will make him the largest supplier of film product for the company. He will remain on the board of Destination films and continue to be one of the company’s principal owners.

In addition, Neil Sacker, exec veep of legal and business affairs, has been promoted to president of worldwide business and legal affairs.

Prior to forming Destination with Baum, Stabler was co-head of Orion Pictures and co-founder of Motion Picture Corporation of America.

Stabler formed MPCA in 1985 and during his tenure the company produced more than 70 movies, including “King Pin,” “Dumb & Dumber,” “Threesome” and “Beverly Hills Ninja.”

Prior to joining Destination 10 months ago, London spent 25 years as a top executive with Paramount Pictures. His tenure with Paramount was capped by three years as vice chairman of Paramount’s Motion Picture Group from 1994-1996, overseeing the studio’s theatrical and video feature marketing and distribution worldwide.

Destination has an exclusive output deal with Alliance Atlantic, a video output deal with Columbia TriStar and a cable output with Liberty Media.

The company, which over the past six months has been active buying scripts and acquiring films, has the following projects in production: “Beautiful,” directed by Sally Field and starring Minnie Driver; “Drowning Mona,” starring Bette Midler, Danny DeVito, Neve Campbell and Jamie Lee Curtis; “Buying the Cow,” starring Jerry O’Connell and an ensemble cast; “Eye of the Beholder,” starring Ashley Judd and Ewan McGregor; and “Thomas and the Magic Railroad.”

Destination acquired the completed films “Whipped” and “Black Out.”

The company’s largest production to date — the $35 million-budgeted “The Wedding Planner” (starring Jennifer Lopez and Brendan Fraser) — begins lensing in two two months and will be bankrolled by Pacifica Entertainment.

The company is also developing a film version of the television series “Hogan’s Heroes.”