The discussions with Wanda honcho Jack Gao, whom Gianopulos has known for years, are in the very early stages, the sources said. Many key issues have not even been discussed at this point, including Gianopulos’ compensation, an actual business plan, and how much Wanda is willing to invest in building Legendary into a full-fledged studio. Wanda has said in the past that it plans to invest billions of dollars into Hollywood assets.
Legendary is in search of a new leader to succeed Thomas Tull, who two days ago announced his departure as chairman and CEO from the company he founded in 2005, then sold it to Wanda last year for $3.5 billion. Legendary disclosed in a regulatory filing last May that it lost $555 million in 2015, taking writedowns on the costly films “Crimson Peak,” “Blackhat,” “Seventh Son” and “Steve Jobs.”
A representative for Wanda late Thursday said, “We don’t comment on rumors.”
Gao said Tuesday he was temporarily assuming the CEO post while he conducts a search for a permanent chief executive. Mary Parent has been serving as Legendary’s head of production for nearly a year. She has a number of movie projects in various stages of development including “Kong: Skull Island” (releasing in March); “Pacific Rim Uprising”; “Dune”; “Bad Blood,” starring Jennifer Lawrence; and “Skyscraper,” starring Dwayne Johnson.
Parent previously worked with Gianopulos when she served as a producer on “The Revenant,” which Fox distributed.
Gianopulos stepped down as chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment in September, nine months earlier than planned. During his 16 years as head of the movie studio, Fox scored big with hits like ““Avatar,” “Deadpool,” “The Martian” and the “X-Men” films.
He has enjoyed deep relationships with filmmakers such as “Avatar’s” James Cameron and “The Martian’s” Ridley Scott and has been mentioned as a potential candidate for top posts at Sony Pictures Entertainment, Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. He has also been approached by other Chinese companies and investment firms.
As for Dalian Wanda, Chairman Wang Jianlin has been looking to expand. In addition to buying Legendary, the company bought the AMC Entertainment theater chain in 2012 and had been in talks last year to buy a 49% stake in Paramount.
Prior to its acquisition by Wanda, Legendary’s roots go back to financing tentpoles such as “The Dark Knight,” “The Hangover,” “Godzilla,” “Pacific Rim” and “Jurassic World.”