In a major shakeup at Endemol Shine North America, Charlie Corwin is leaving as co-chairman and CEO of the Los Angeles-based production company, a cornerstone of the Endemol Shine Group joint venture between 21st Century Fox and Apollo Global Management.
Cris Abrego, who has been co-chairman and CEO with Corwin since October 2014, will take the reins as solo leader of the company that is home to CBS’ “Big Brother,” Fox’s “MasterChef” and NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.”
The timing of Corwin’s departure is a big surprise. Corwin and Abrego just signed new deals with the company in January that saw their duties expand to overseeing all Latin American operations.
Sources said there had of late been significant differences of opinion on the direction and strategy for the company, particularly as it related to scripted programming, between Corwin and Sophie Turner Laing, CEO of the Amsterdam-based Endemol Shine parent org. Corwin is expected to depart by the end of this month, although he will remain involved with the company as an executive producer on some projects.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have worked alongside some of the most talented, creative people in our industry at Endemol Shine over these last three years,” Corwin said. “And I know that I’m leaving our teams here in North America and across Latin America in great hands with Cris Abrego, who is a leader in every sense of the word.”
Laing credited Corwin with establishing the foundation of the merged company in his work alongside Abrego during the past two years.
Corwin’s “energy and humor will be much missed and he will be leaving us with our very best wishes for the future,” Laing said. “Going forward, our U.S. and Latin American business is in brilliant hands with Cris at the helm of an outstandingly talented team in all areas. The business is ideally placed to build on this terrific momentum and enter an accelerated phase of growth.”
Sources close to the company said Corwin was not fired but decided to leave in order to pursue other business opportunities that have come his way in recent weeks. Still, the news came as a surprise Wednesday to most at Endemol Shine.
Endemol Shine North America only recently completed a laborious integration of the Endemol and Shine divisions. Corwin had taken the lead in revving up the scripted division headed by Sharon Hall and setting the course for the Endemol Beyond digital content division run by Bonnie Pan. Both Hall and Pan have been with the company for less than a year.
Abrego, meanwhile, is well-liked internally and regarded as a good leader and manager of people.
“I am honored to be leading the Endemol Shine teams in both North America and Latin America, where we have a lot of momentum across all facets of our business and some very promising new series set to launch in the coming months,” Abrego said. “Clearly we are all going to miss Charlie, who has been a great partner since we first joined the company together and he’s played an integral role in bringing together the tremendous leadership team we now have in place.”
Corwin has been with Endemol since 2007, when the company bought a majority stake in his Original Media banner, which he built as a producer with such disparate projects as indie films (“The Squid and the Whale,’ “Half Nelson”) and reality TV series (“Miami Ink,” “Swamp People”).
Abrego came to Endemol through a similar route when the company bought out his 51 Minds (“The Surreal Life,” “Flavor of Love”) production banner in 2008. Abrego’s years in the trenches as a showrunner have proven vital in helping guide the company’s most prominent unscripted series. He was instrumental in the recent expansion of the “Big Brother” franchise with Spanish-language editions produced for Telemundo and the revival of the show in Mexico for Televisa’s Canal 5.
Corwin and Abrego were tapped to lead Endemol’s North American operation in 2013. The following year, 21st Century Fox’s Shine Group and Apollo’s Endemol were brought together in a joint venture. Corwin and Abrego prevailed over the Shine America team in becoming heads of the combined entity’s North American operation.
The goal in the formation of Endemol Shine Group was to create a production powerhouse with a focus on the global marketplace for formats and adaptations of series formats. Endemol and Shine both brough to the table production resources and infrastructure in local markets across Europe, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.
But some have questioned whether Fox needs the investment in the U.S. arm of Endemol Shine given the broad production capabilities it has through its wholly owned 20th Century Fox TV and Fox 21 Television Studios division. It has been expected that Fox will eventually buy out Apollo’s interest in Endemol Shine Group.
So far, Endemol Shine has been buoyed by the reality franchises that predate the formation of the joint venture. Endemol Shine North America has invested big in production pacts and IP, raising the stakes for its performance next year. Among the big swings is the CBS reality series “Hunted,” which is a high-priority for CBS as it is the first unscripted series commissioned by entertainment president Glenn Geller.
Corwin and Hall are making the rounds this week to TV buyers with a series adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” which Neil Cross (“Luther”) is writing and producing.
Other scripted projects in the works include the Showtime comedy “I’m Dying Up Here.” Endemol Shine also produces the DirecTV drama “Kingdom.”
(Pictured, Cris Abrego, right, and Charlie Corwin)