News Corporation made the surprise announcement late yesterday that Tom Rothman will step down as Chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment at the end of the year.
Jim Gianopulos, who has partnered with Rothman in the position since 2000, will take over the reigns solo in the new year. The Hollywood Reporter says Rothman's contract was set to expire in 2014 but he was given the option of an early out sometime in the last few days.
Rupert Murdoch's corporate empire continues to re-structure itself in the months following the News of the World scandal. Rothman's out was seemingly offered because Fox confirmed it is splitting up its studio operations into separate film and television divisions.
The film unit - Twentieth Century Fox Film - will consist of its 20th Century Fox Film, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Fox 2000, Fox Animation/Blue Sky Studios, Fox International Productions, and Fox Home Entertainment divisions.
Twentieth Century Fox Television, which will include Fox Television Studios and Fox 21, will now become an autonomous unit which will fall under direct purview of News Corp's President and COO Chase Carey.
In his near two decades at Fox, Rothman has been an infamous figure known as much for his love of film as for his abrasive and volatile temperament. While he delivered consistent profits for the company and its shareholders, those involved in the industry are less likely to speak about him in kind terms as his style often butted heads with filmmakers and columnists alike.
To his credit Rothman has had some major success stories in his run, most notably founding Fox Searchlight and building some hugely profitable franchises for the studio.
This summer however Fox has taken some heavy blows as only its latest "Ice Age" film has performed. "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" and "The Watch" bombed, "Prometheus" under performed, and Rothman famously passed on Seth MacFarlane's "Ted" which ended up becoming a massive sleeper hit for Universal.
In fact talk of Rothman going after Ron Meyer's job as head of Universal Studios has been suggested as one of the reasons behind his sudden departure.