Leipzig leaves National Geographic

Prexy may be replaced by Miramax's Battsek

Adam Leipzig is departing as president of National Geographic Films and may be replaced by lame duck Miramax president Daniel Battsek.

Leipzig, a former Disney and Interscope exec, is returning to his roots as a producer after half a dozen years in the National Geographic Films post. A spokesman for the production company said Tuesday that he could not comment about Battsek but sources indicated he was in talks about the slot.

Battsek announced in late October that he would be leaving as president of Disney’s specialty film label at the end of January.

Biggest success of Leipzig’s tenure came with 2005’s “March of the Penguins,” which it distribbed with Warner Independent. “Penguins,” acquired at Sundance, grossed more than $125 million worldwide.

David Beal, president of National Geographic Entertainment, said in a statement, “After six incredible years of setting the strategic course for National Geographic Films, Adam Leipzig’s relationship transitions to executive producer of two in-process National Geographic Entertainment projects — Peter Weir’s ‘The Way Back’ and the miniseries ‘Undaunted Courage,’ with HBO.”

The exploration-conservation brand’s film division is partnered with Abu Dhabi’s film division Imagenation on a $100 million fund they established in 2008 by making a significant equity investment in the Weir-directed drama “The Way Back.” The plans called for Imagenation and NGE to develop, produce, finance and acquire 10-15 films over the next five years.

Nat Geo’s recent releases include Cherien Dabis’ “Amreeka” and Lu Chuan’s “City of Life and Death,” which premiered at Toronto and is due to open this spring.

As for Miramax, Disney announced in the fall that it was slashing the number of films the company releases to three a year, from the six to eight it previously had on its sked, and folding much of its operations — marketing, distribution, operations and administrative support functions — into the Mouse House’s larger film group.

Disney started downscaling the division only three days before Rich Ross was officially named chairman of Walt Disney Studios.

Battsek was tapped to head Miramax in July 2005.

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