Markus Schaefer will assume the role of president and CEO of ZDF Studios, succeeding Fred Burcksen, who is leaving the company after more than 26 years. Together with co-director Karoline Meichsner-Sertl, Schaefer will be in charge of ZDF Studios’ future plans.

Announced less than a fortnight after ZDF Enterprises rebranded as ZDF Studios on April 1, the change of leadership sees the departure of an iconic executive who was at ZDFE from its near launch in 1993, helping to shepherd its transformation from a sales and acquisition arm into a veritable production force in Germany. 

From 1998, ZDFE has taken stakes in 28 affiliated production companies including Intaglio Films, Nadcon, headed by Nordic Noir pioneer Peter Nadermann, and Real Film, producer of Netflix hit “Unorthodox.”

Schaefer’s challenge is how to take ZDF Studios to the next level, as a production player with the potential to consolidate its status as one of the foremost players in Europe.

Schaefer held various management positions at All3Media Deutschland in Munich from 2004 before being appointed chief financial officer in 2010 and CEO in 2014. He is also deputy chair of the board of the Alliance of German Producers – Film and Television.

ZDF director-general Norbert Himmler said: “In Markus Schaefer, we have an experienced media manager taking over the management of the ZDF Studios Group. With his knowledge of the industry and strategic skills, he will drive forward the digital development of the group. I would like to thank Fred Burcksen for his great services to ZDF Studios and his extraordinary commitment to the company. He is handing over a very well positioned group of companies to his successor.”

Schaefer said: “As an internationally active and established media powerhouse, ZDF Studios has an excellent reputation and a great deal of creative momentum. In this context, continuity, collaboration and sustainable innovation are of central importance. I’m very much looking forward, with the entire team, to opening another chapter in the almost 30-year history of ZDF Studios.”

Burcksen added: “I’ve been fortunate to be able to help develop and shape the ZDF Studios Group over a very long period and from the start it’s been a role that was as fascinating as it was challenging. Today I’m pleased to be leaving behind a successful organisation and handing the baton on to a proven industry expert.”