Starz wants out of movie biz

Overture exits signal a reversal of strategy

John Malone’s Starz unit wants out of the movie financing biz. That much has become clear in the wake of the departures Thursday of Overture CEO Chris McGurk and chief operating officer Danny Rosett.

It’s understood that Starz is focused on completing the sale of the Starz Media division that houses Overture, Anchor Bay Entertainment, Film Roman and Starz Animation. There’s a possibility that the companies would be sold off individually if they can’t get much traction with the sale as a group.

Fate of the Starz Media division has been up in the air since shortly after former HBO chief Chris Albrecht joined the Starz parent company as prexy and CEO. Malone’s Liberty Media holding company is believed to be focused on streamlining Starz’s operations to focus on the 16 Starz-Encore pay TV channels.

Insiders say McGurk and Rosett have not been in the loop on the sale process, even though they had hoped to field a management buyout.

McGurk and Rosett were said to have grown frustrated at being left out of strategic discussions involving the fate of Starz Media. With the uncertainty about Overture’s future, it’s unclear whether the distrib will move forward with fall releases for Philip Seymour Hoffman’s directing debut “Jack Goes Boating” on Sept. 17, vampire remake “Let Me In” on Oct. 1 and “Stone” with Robert De Niro on Oct. 8.

Insiders said there have been several offers made for Starz Media, though the contenders no longer include private equity players Alec and Tom Gores, who in recent months have been in the hunt for film assets, including the Miramax library.

McGurk and Rosett launched Overture in Nov. 2006 with financing from Liberty. McGurk served as chief exec of Overture and Anchor Bay.

For now, Overture prexy of worldwide marketing and distribution Peter Adee has been put in charge of day-to-day operations of Overture, reporting to Albrecht. Bill Clark, prexy of Anchor Bay, now reports to Albrecht instead of McGurk.

McGurk and Rosett put forth their management buyout plan in January, and began shopping for possible investors. Around the same time, production funds were frozen.