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Shifting Sands

D'Works prexy steps in as Geffen ups role

DreamWorks is kicking off 2005 with some substantial shifts at the studio.

Former Miramax chief operating officer Rick Sands has assumed his duties as president and chief operating officer of DreamWorks, the studio confirmed Monday. Daily Variety first reported Sands was in talks last summer (Daily Variety, Aug. 19, 2004).

Sands will report directly to DreamWorks principal David Geffen, who will play a more active role at the studio. Geffen, who in recent years has been the least visible of the DreamWorks founders (who include Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg), will become a leading voice in greenlight decisions at the live-action studio.

As president, Sands is the only DreamWorks staffer with a title. People familiar with Sands’ Miramax contract say this stipulation was necessary in order for him to negotiate an early exit.

Ostensibly, Sands replaces Katzenberg, who is now CEO of DreamWorks Animation, the animation arm of DreamWorks that spun off as a public company last fall. Prior to the IPO, Katzenberg oversaw most of the studio’s administration and operational duties.

At Miramax, Sands oversaw production, marketing and administration, but in an interview with Daily Variety, he stressed his background in business rather than creative affairs.

In addition to overseeing day-to-day management of DreamWorks, Sands said, “I really do bring a tremendous view of the business to this company because of my background in marketing and distribution and finance and business affairs.”

Sands also will work with Katzenberg on the marketing and distribution of DreamWorks Animation films and will be involved with the growth of DreamWorks’ specialty label Go Fish.

Jointly creative

As for creative decisions, he said he and production head Adam Goodman will be partners.

“The production people here are so good at what they do. Not all movies work, but production is getting a picture to the screen, and they’re terrific at what they do. Adam has been intimately involved in the production, and creatively we’ll be partners.”

Greenlighting will be determined by a committee that will include Geffen, Spielberg, Katzenberg, Sands and Goodman.

Sources say Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald will also have an input on production decisions, despite their being focusing on producing from their offices in Santa Monica rather than their longtime roles overseeing production at DreamWorks.

Weinsteins praise

Miramax co-chairmen Bob and Harvey Weinstein issued a joint statement about Sands: “In Rick’s 14-year career at Miramax he has risen to the top of his profession and has made an enormous contribution to the success of the company. Last year and this year going forward will be two of the most profitable in the company’s history, and Rick played a big part in that.

“Bob and I are sad to see him go but it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and no friend, as we consider ourselves of Rick’s, would stand in his way. We want to wish him and DreamWorks the best of luck for many years to come and look forward to working together in the future.”

Sands will not be replaced at Miramax, which is in flux as a company. But sources at Miramax say the company has been preparing for Sands’ departure for a few months, and that rather than hire someone else, his responsibilities will be split up among some of the company’s top execs.

As chief operations office of Miramax, Sands also held the title of chairman of worldwide distribution. The exec joined Miramax in 1990 as an exec VP and chief financial officer, and was instrumental in negotiating the sale of Miramax to the Walt Disney Co.

He left Miramax in 1993 to become exec VP-chief financial officer for RHI Entertainment. Sands returned to Miramax in 1995, taking control of international activities. In 1997, he became chair of worldwide distribution. Four years later he became the company’s COO.

Monday was Sands’ first day at DreamWorks. Of the difference between his old and new jobs, he said, “My blood pressure is down a few points.”