HOLLYWOOD — After a decade at DreamWorks, chief operating officer Helene Hahn, one of the industry’s top-ranked female executives and a business partner and consultant to DreamWorks principal partner Jeffrey Katzenberg for nearly 30 years, is retiring from her post.
Hahn will continue to serve as a consultant to DreamWorks for at least one year following her departure and will continue on as COO until a replacement has been named.
DreamWorks has not confirmed a new hire. Miramax COO Rick Sands in negotiations for the job (Daily Variety, Aug. 19).
Hahn’s departure was spurred by the upcoming initial public offering of DreamWorks’ animation division, which will effectively change the duties of the COO position, splitting responsibilities between the two companies. The animated company will be headed by Ann Daly.
Another factor is that since she married in 1999, Hahn’s primary residence has been in Park City, Utah.
“It’s the right transition time for me, both personally and for the company,” Hahn told Daily Variety. “At this point there really should be a COO at the studio that is living in L.A. With all the transition going on, this was the right thing.”
Hahn — who started at Paramount, where she met Katzenberg, then moved with him to Disney, where she rose to become the top business executive overseeing the studio — said of her Hollywood journey: “I’ve had a tremendous career. I’ve been really fortunate to work with the best and the brightest at Paramount, Disney and now DreamWorks.”
Of her time at DreamWorks she said: “It’s amazing, because we started DreamWorks from absolute scratch … It’s a real testament to all the people who came to DreamWorks when it was nothing. They’re still here. It really worked.”
Katzenberg, who relied on Hahn as his counsel during his lawsuit against Disney in the late 1990s, said: “It’s not possible to overstate the partnership that I’ve had with Helene now for almost 30 years. She has been an invaluable partner and part of our brain trust at DreamWorks from the beginning, and I don’t think we would have possibly gotten to where we are today without her.”
According DreamWorks, discussions of Hahn’s resignation began earlier this year between her and Katzenberg, and that Hahn is assisting in the search for a new COO.
Hahn is one of the few women in Hollywood who has held top business executive posts at multiple studios. She joined DreamWorks as co-COO, along with Ron Nelson, when it was founded in 1994, working with the company’s principals Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg and David Geffen, on preparing DreamWorks’ 10-year business plan and structuring the equity investments. The business plan served as the blueprint for the organization of the company’s production, distribution and marketing operations.
When Nelson left the studio in January 2003, Hahn was named sole COO.
During her tenure, Hahn oversaw all of DreamWorks’ business and legal affairs, and handled the negotiations for all of the studio’s seminal deals, including those with HBO, ABC, Universal Distribution, and the company’s key executives.
Prior to DreamWorks, Hahn had been executive VP of Walt Disney Studios since 1987. She initially joined Disney in 1984 as senior VP, business and legal affairs for Walt Disney Pictures.
Before Disney, Hahn worked at Paramount Pictures for seven years, where she started as a staff attorney. Two years later, she moved to business affairs, where she was promoted to director in 1980, VP in 1981 and senior VP in 1983.