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Relativity Media President Michael Joe exits to manage studio for its chief financier [Updated]

May 12, 2011 |  4:18 pm

MJphoto Relativity Media Chief Executive Ryan Kavanaugh's top lieutenant, Michael Joe, will now oversee the independent studio on behalf of its primary investor.

In the latest executive shake-up at the West Hollywood company in the last year, Joe has relinquished his role as president and will supervise Relativity on behalf of its sole investor, the New York hedge fund Elliott Management. Elliott has invested more than $1 billion in Relativity, which has lost several hundred million dollars over the last few years, according to a person familiar with the matter.

[Update, 7:40 p.m.: Another person close to the company said that in fact Relativity Media has not lost money and that Elliott' investment in it is less than $1 billion. Because Relativity is a private company its finances can not be independent verified.]

That was in large part because of the unsuccessful slate of films Relativity co-financed with Universal Pictures, including the costly box-office flop “Land of the Lost.” Over the last year, Relativity has attempted to transform itself by financing its own movies, such as the recently released thriller “Limitless,” and bringing in more experienced executives.

However, several executives have not lasted long. In April, Marketing and Distribution President Peter Adee left after eight months on the job. In January, Chief Financial Officer Bill Sutman exited after a two-year stint.

Joe joined Relativity from Universal Pictures last summer as a seasoned business executive to work alongside Kavanaugh, who had no previous experience running a film studio. Joe’s restrained management style stood in contrast to the outsized personality of Kavanaugh, and the two did not easily mesh, according to a person close to the company.

Jesse Cohn, a portfolio manager with no operational experience in Hollywood, had been overseeing Relativity on behalf of Elliott, which has no other entertainment assets.

With Joe’s departure, Chief Operating Officer Steve Bertram has been promoted to president of Relativity and Brian Edwards, former COO of Mark Burnett Productions, is succeeding him.

In a statement, Kavanaugh specifically praised Bertram and Edwards' experience working on the initial public offering of DreamWorks Animation and the sale of DreamWorks Studios to Viacom, hinting at his intention to eventually sell Relativity or offer shares on the stock market.

-- Ben Fritz


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Photo: Michael Joe. Credit: Relativity Media.