Layoffs at Summit begin: 4 execs out

Heads of TV distribution and homevid among the first to exit

Layoffs at Summit Entertainment began this week, in the wake of its acquisition by Lionsgate, and those cut will include a handful of senior execs including TV distribution head Alex Fragen and home entertainment chief Steve Nickerson.

Bobby Gerber, Summit’s exec veep of home entertainment sales, was also among those who were told Monday that they will be let go, according to a source close to the company. The trio were expected to remain until early next month. Also out is Andi Isaacs, EVP of production, a former Disney exec who oversaw physical production on all of Summit’s inhouse films.

Fragen, Nickerson, Gerber and Isaacs started with Summit in 2007, just as the foreign sales company was relaunching itself as a full-service production and distribution studio. The layoffs were expected as Lionsgate integrates its operations with Summit, which it acquired in January in a cash-and-stock deal totaling $412.5 million.

Lionsgate co-chairman and CEO Jon Feltheimer acknowledged at the time that overlap would lead to consolidation. A month later, Summit co-founder and president of international David Garrett began preparing his exit (Daily Variety, Feb. 13).

Lionsgate would not confirm the layoffs Monday. “The integration of Lionsgate and Summit is ongoing,” a studio spokesman said. “We’re not going to comment on specific individuals until our key management team is fully in place.”

Fragen, a well-liked Summit exec who was responsible for its lucrative deal with HBO, oversaw domestic distribution for free and pay TV, video-on-demand and hotel and airline sales — areas that are overseen by Jim Packer, Lionsgate’s prexy of worldwide TV distribution and digital.

Nickerson, a consumer electronics and homevid vet, established Summit’s homevid arm with Gerber, who worked with Nickerson at Toshiba and Warner Bros. Nickerson joined Summit after eight years at Warners homevid, where he was senior VP of worldwide high-definition media.

Most of Summit’s homevideo releases are distributed by Universal, but that deal is likely to be phased out as Lionsgate’s robust homevideo arm begins taking over Summit titles.

More shakeups and layoffs are expected at the newly merged companies. The departure of Garrett — an experienced foreign-sales pro based in London — leaves a major hole to fill for Lionsgate, which targeted Summit in part on the strength of its overseas sales division.

A week after the merger, it was announced that Summit toppers Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger would run Lionsgate’s movie division.

Lionsgate has also been affected by the merger: Joe Drake, motion picture group prexy and co-COO, will depart following the release of “The Hunger Games” on March 23. Alli Shearmur, who joined Lionsgate as president of motion picture production in 2008, is also vacating her post and is expected to segue to a production deal with the company.

Before the layoffs began, the combined company had about 660 employees — 500 from Lionsgate and 160 from Summit. The plan is to eventually move the remaining Summit employees into the Lionsgate offices, just down the street in Santa Monica.