Col, sr. VP Strauss part ways amid shuffles

Strauss not straying far; production deal in works

Change continues to unfold within the production ranks of Columbia Pictures, with insiders saying senior veepee of production Ricky Strauss will ankle his post imminently.

Strauss’ departure follows closely on the heels of other shuffles in the Col exec ranks. The surprise elevation of Screen Gems exec veepee of business affairs and acquisitions Peter Schlessel to prexy of production was announced June 12, and Col exec VP of business affairs Bryan Lee is also understood to be ankling the studio (Daily Variety, June 16).

Strauss, who’d joined the Col production team in 1997 from the studio’s worldwide marketing department, is understood to be in talks with the studio to set up a first-look production shingle there. Insiders say that an agreement on the terms of his first-look deal is expected to be reached later this week.

As senior veepee of production, Strauss had been supervising the development of projects being produced by former Columbia TriStar execs turned producers on the Sony lot: The big-budget CGI actioner “Final Fantasy” that ex-Col topper Chris Lee is producing via his own first-look deal on the lot, as well as “Urban Legends II: Final Cut,” which ex-TriStar topper Mike Medavoy’s Phoenix Pictures is producing for distribution by Sony.

It is not immediately clear who will supervise “Fantasy” now that Strauss is departing, nor is it certain who, if anyone, will be replacing him at the studio. Strauss had joined the company in 1988.

A studio spokeswoman declined to comment.

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