The Walt Disney Company’s $US71.3 billion takeover of most of 21st Century Fox’s assets has resulted in several high level casualties in Australia.
Jo Bladen, Disney’s general manager, studios and live entertainment for more than eight years, and Marc Wooldridge, Fox Film Distribution MD for Australasia since 2009, are both departing at the end of this month.
IF understands Bladen’s duties will be shared between Josh Brigham, Disney’s director of studio sales, and Andrea McMillan, head of studio and franchise marketing.
Kylie Watson-Wheeler continues to run the territory as Disney’s senior VP and MD, Australia and New Zealand.
It’s understood Brigham and McMillan will report to Watson-Wheeler and to Kurt Reider, who was Fox International’s executive VP theatrical in Asia Pacific and will now lead the merged studio’s businesses in the region.
Staff in Fox’s Sydney office are staying on, at least through July as Fox launches Stuber, an action comedy about a mild-mannered Uber driver (Kumail Nanjiani) who picks up a passenger (Dave Bautista) who turns out to be a cop hot on the trail of a brutal killer, on July 11.
It is unclear how many will segue to Disney’s Melbourne office but most may be unwilling to make that move even if they are offered jobs.
News of the departures of Bladen and Wooldridge has surprised screen industry executives as both are highly regarded, have decades of distribution and marketing experience and close relationships with exhibitors and the wider industry. That is a considerable loss of IP and corporate memory.
Also departing is Flavio Paoli, Fox Home Entertainment’s regional senior VP, Australia and Japan, after nearly eight years with the company.
The moves appear to be part of a streamlining/cost cutting exercise, which may seem strange as the volume of theatrical releases handled by Disney could well double as it takes on the Fox-produced titles.
A spokesperson for ESPN | The Walt Disney Company Australia and New Zealand declined to comment.
Bladen has spent 21 years at Disney and Wooldridge has been with Fox for 27 years, earlier working for Fox Home Entertainment.
“I’ve had an amazing 21 years at Disney and am very proud of my achievements – huge success and breaking BO records,” Bladen tells IF.
Brigham joined Disney nearly eight years ago and was upped to his present position from retail sales director. McMillan, a seven-year Disney veteran, previously was director of retail marketing.