Optimum Releasing founder and CEO Will Clarke is leaving after 11 years to start a media company with longtime business partner Paul Higgins.

The pair will “remain close” to Gallic producer StudioCanal, which acquired the distrib in 2006. Both will serve as special advisors to its board and will forge a development and production pact between their new company, which has yet to be named, and StudioCanal.

Optimum chief operating officer Danny Perkins, who joined the distrib at its inception in 1999, will be upped to CEO on Sept. 1. He will head all U.K. operations and report to Olivier Courson, chairman and CEO of StudioCanal.

Clarke said he was “extremely proud of what has been achieved at Optimum.” The distrib has become one of the top indie distribution outfits in the U.K., releasing “The Orphanage,” “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “The Hurt Locker,” “This Is England” and “Fahrenheit 9/11,” among others.

The distrib-turned-producer has also ramped up filmmaking starting with helmer Rowan Joffe’s $10 million-$12 million adaptation of Graham Greene’s “Brighton Rock,” starring Helen Mirren and Sam Riley. Pic is now in post-production.

Clarke, who will exit Optimum at year’s end, said, “It is time for a new adventure and we look forward to sharing details of our plans in the coming months.”