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We scooped at 3:20 PM today that longtime Fox Filmed Entertainment Co-Chairman Tom Rothman is exiting the studio at the end of the year. The brilliant but arrogant 59-year-old Rothman’s departure breaks up the longest major studio mogul pairing in recent history. In fact, he and co-Chairman/CEO Gianopulos were considered model moguls for running a studio cheaply, efficiently, and profitably – and their rivals were openly envious of their track record. Now the film biz will be “consolidated” under Gianopulos who’ll be sole Chairman/CEO of what will now be called Twentieth Century Fox Film.

The studio shakeup also affects TV operations, which will be “realigned”: the very successful duo of Twentieth TV heads Dana Walden and Gary Newman won’t have to report to Rothman or Gianopulos any longer. The TV execs considered that a slap in the face and lobbied to stop it. They now will run a stand alone unit under News Corp and report directly to News Corp No. 2 Chase Carey. Today News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch praised them effusively as ”unquestionably one of the best creative teams in the television business.”

Tom RothmanThough in truth this is an amicable parting of the ways, the word around Hollywood is that Rothman was fired before he could jump ship. (Memos and releases below). Sources tell us that Rothman’s News Corp bosses were annoyed that he was aggressively seeking the top job at Universal Studios from Comcast. (Not Ron Meyer’s President/COO job per se, but the long vacant Chairman/CEO gig that would also put the TV studio under him.) And he did himself no favors when he opposed the new Fox distribution deal with DreamWorks Animation orchestrated last month by Gianopulos. In addition it’s been Gianopulos who has maintained the close working relationship with studio star talent James Cameron, not Rothman, and will see the studio through the much-anticipated Avatar 2 and 3.

But probably more damaging to Rothman was the perception inside and outside Fox that he often ran roughshod over Hollywood reps and talent to preserve the studio’s bottom line. And that he also micromanaged the studio executives and staff so that morale suffered. As a result, he was increasingly unpopular in the film community. (It also didn’t help that he was the on-air host for the Fox Legacy series on the Fox Movie Channel and seen as pompously providing background intel on the making of films.)

Jim GianopulosGoing forward at Twentieth Film, our insiders say Emma Watts “will get more freedom to do her job,” while Gianopulos will step up oversight instead of focusing on international. ”It was time for a change. Tom wants to do something different. He had an amazing run and is a huge part of our success over the past two decades. Jim is a great leader. We’re in amazing hands,” one insider tells us. Says another, ”Tom and Jim could not be more different in how they approach business. Tom is very creative and hands-on but thinks he’s always the smartest guy around. Jim is more personable. He lets people do their jobs while respecting and nurturing the instincts of creative talent.”

What Rothman will do next is unknown, but an exec with his vast experience and relationships and fiscal prudence will be much in demand. (“I feel like he has something up his sleeve”, a source tells us. However, it was made clear to us today not to expect that he’ll be heading up Universal for Comcast next.) In a goodbye memo, Rothman himself said today, “I’m proud as hell of [my] run. But I’ve done the same thing, at the same place, for a long time (indeed, in the 75 year history of our studio, no one has supervised movies for longer except Darryl Zanuck himself). I do need some new challenges and to write a new chapter.”

Today’s shocker follows yet another lackluster summer box office for Twentieth Century Fox live action films, capping several years of missteps and misfires, and as a result Hollywood has been abuzz for months that Rothman was about to receive the ax. Especially embarrassing was this summer’s huge worldwide success of Ted, a Media Rights Capital movie project from Twentieth TV star Seth MacFarlane that Rothman turned down — against the pleas of Newman and Walden — and which went on to make a fortune for Universal Pictures. On the other hand, Rothman passed on Battleship, Universal’s big-budget humiliating summer loser.

But it’s also important to note that overall the film studio’s performance in recent years was still #1 or #2 for profit margins “which is what Rupert wants”, an insider reminds us. And Rothman had a great deal to do with that and the film studio’s tremendous success over the years. Rothman has supervised filmmaking activities at Fox for over 18 years. Before becoming Chairman, he held the positions of President of Twentieth Century Fox Film Group, President of Production for Twentieth Century Fox and, in 1994, was founder and President of Fox Searchlight.  A few of the films made under his oversight include the top two grossing movies of all time, Titanic and Avatar, as well as Taken, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, Black Swan, Cast Away, Master And Commander, Walk The Line, Juno, The Devil Wears Prada, Borat, the X-Men and Ice Age series, Little Miss Sunshine, Minority Report, Moulin Rouge, Boys Don’t Cry, Sideways, There’s Something About Mary. Fox films during this time have been nominated for over 100 Academy Awards, won three Best Pictures, and earned in excess of $25 billion in worldwide box office.

Immediately, Hollywood began speculating whether Jeffrey Katzenberg might take a bigger role inside Fox films following his new distribution deal with the studio orchestrated by Gianopulos but opposed by Rothman. Katzenberg has always considered himself underemployed as head of DreamWorks Animation and has never disguised his ambition to become a bigger mogul after he was thwarted first at the Walt Disney Co by Michael Eisner and then at DreamWorks SKG when the troubled studio was sold to Paramount.

On the TV side, Rothman’s exit reverts the reporting structure to pre-2009 when Dana Walden and Gary Newman reported to then News Corp president and COO Peter Chernin. Following Chernin’s 2009 exit, all the LA-based News Corp production divisions were combined into a single Fox Filmed Entertainment unit co-run by Gianopulos and Rothman. But Newman and Walden had to report to them — which did not sit well with the duo, even though as part of that restructuring the TV execs got oversight of Fox Television Studios. That’s because of the success of their 20th TV primetime network portfolio which includes hit comedies Modern Family and How I Met Your Mother, promising sophomore New Girl, lucrative animated franchises The Simpsons and Family Guy, dramedy Glee, and veteran procedural Bones. In recent years, Walden and Newman also have led the TV studio into cable  with productions like FX’s top series, Sons Of Anarchy, and anthology American Horror Story, as well as Showtime’s critical darling Homeland.

More than 1/2 hour after our scoop at 3:20 PM, News Corp issued a press release confirming the news and outlining the studio shakeup, followed by Rupert Murdoch’s staff memo about Rothman’s exit, followed by Tom Rothman’s own goodbye memo:

My Dear Friends,

I have decided that, after more than 18 years — the bulk of my adult working life — I am resigning as Chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment, effective January 1, 2013.  During my time at Fox, thanks to you, we have together accomplished more than I ever imagined possible, from the founding and nurturing of Searchlight, to overseeing the two biggest films in box office history, to consistently ranking at the top among studio profitability year in and year out (including our most recent strong fiscal year), and, most of all, making dozens of exceptional films that I believe will stand the test of time.  I’m proud as hell of that run.  But I’ve done the same thing, at the same place, for a long time (indeed, in the 75 year history of our studio, no one has supervised movies for longer except Darryl Zanuck himself).  I do need some new challenges and to write a new chapter.

I love Fox and all of you and take comfort knowing that, although there is never a perfect time to leave, because the slate for the next several years is in awesome shape, this is at least a pretty good one.  I know that Jim G. and all of you will continue our long tradition of winning ways, and I will be rooting hard for you.  I will also be around until the end of the year to help with the transition and celebrate some of the hits we are about to have.

Finally, let me say, how eternally grateful I will always be for the privilege and the honor of having had this job, and above all else, working with you all –  quite simply, the best, most talented, and the kindest colleagues in the world.  If I can leave you with one thought, it’s this:  for all these years, I have tried to do the job with, above all else, integrity.  I think our company stands for doing what is right, even if that is not always easy, and for prizing honesty and forthrightness.  I hope that you will carry that mission forward.  As for me, a bunch of you guys know what the tattoo on my ankle says.  It’s what I wish for us all:  “Excelsior”!

With Love and Gratitude,
Tom

Dear Colleagues:

Today we are announcing that Tom Rothman will step down as Chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment at the end of this year.   Jim Gianopulos, who has led the business with Tom since 2000, will expand his leadership role as its sole Chairman and CEO.

We would like to extend our appreciation to Tom for the critical role he has played in building our film studio into an industry leader.  His legacy includes many of the biggest films of the last few decades as well as the creation of our indie powerhouse Fox Searchlight.  We wish Tom all the best and know he will have continued success in his next chapter.

With a robust slate of upcoming films and Jim’s continued leadership, our film unit is well positioned for future growth and couldn’t be in better hands.  We are confident that Jim’s stellar business and creative acumen will take our film business to new heights.

We’re also announcing that Twentieth Century Fox Television will now become a stand-alone business unit within News Corporation, and will no longer be part of our film operations.   As a result, its Co-Chairs Dana Walden and Gary Newman will now report directly to Chase.   With a track record of hits like Homeland, Glee, Modern Family, American Horror Story and Sons of Anarchy, they are unquestionably one of the best creative teams in the television business and we look forward to working more closely with them.  In addition, to reflect this new structure, our film business will now assume the name Twentieth Century Fox Film.

Please join us in thanking Tom for his enormous contributions to the company and wishing Jim, Gary and Dana continued success.  For more information, please see the attached.

Sincerely,
Rupert Murdoch and Chase Carey

NEW YORK – September 14, 2012 – News Corporation today announced that Tom Rothman will step down as Chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment at the end of the year.  Leadership of the film unit has been consolidated under Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos, who has served with Rothman since 2000.

“I have been at Fox for over 18 years, the bulk of my adult working life,” Rothman said. “In that time we have accomplished more than I ever imagined, from the founding and nurturing of Fox Searchlight, to overseeing the two biggest films in box office history, to keeping us consistently at the highest levels of industry profits, including this most recent strong fiscal year, and, most of all, making dozens of films that I believe will stand the test of time.  I’m deeply proud of that run.  But even more, I am eternally grateful to have had the honor and opportunity to work with the marvelous people here at Fox. I will miss them hugely. Still, I have done the same job, at the same place, for a very long time, and it is time for me to write a new chapter.  I love 20th Century Fox and take great comfort knowing that we have an amazing slate of pictures in place for the next several years. I know that Jim and all my terrific colleagues at Fox, will continue our long tradition of winning ways, and I will help in the transition in any ways I can.”

In conjunction with Rothman’s departure, News Corporation announced a reorganization of its studio operations that separates the film and television production units.  As a result, the film business will now assume the name Twentieth Century Fox Film, and is comprised of Twentieth Century Fox Film, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Fox 2000, Fox Animation/Blue Sky Studios, Fox International Productions, and Fox Home Entertainment.

Twentieth Century Fox Television, which also includes Fox Television Studios and Fox 21, is now an autonomous business unit within News Corporation, and will no longer be combined with the Company’s film operations.  Accordingly, current Co-Chairs Dana Walden and Gary Newman will now report directly to Chase Carey, News Corporation’s President and Chief Operating Officer.

Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO of News Corporation, commented: “Tom has played a critical role in building our film business into one of the industry’s leading studios.  He has spearheaded a legacy that includes many of the business’ biggest grossing films, consistently outstanding profits, and enduring quality. I know great success will continue to follow him.  We are well positioned for future success under the leadership of Jim Gianopulos, whose talents will ensure that we continue to engage audiences around the world on multiple platforms.”

Chase Carey, President and COO of News Corporation, commented: “Tom has created one of the strongest portfolios of films in the industry and we will forever be grateful for his decades of contributions.  He is clearly one of the most passionate film executives in the business and we wish him well in his future endeavors.”

“Jim has been an equal driving force in bringing some of the greatest films of all time to audiences around the world over a career that spans more than three decades.  I am confident that Jim will take our film business to new heights.”  Carey continued, “As we continue in our commitment to develop superior television content, I look forward to working more closely with Gary and Dana, who, with hits like Homeland, Glee, Modern Family, American Horror Story and Sons of Anarchy, are unquestionably one of the best teams in the business.”

Jim Gianopulos, Chairman and CEO of Twentieth Century Fox Film, commented: “For the past 11 years, Tom and I have had a truly wonderful partnership, and have enjoyed both great success and a true sense of mutual respect and camaraderie.  I will always value working with him and his keen creative mind, profound commitment to film and tireless work ethic, all of which will serve him well as he pursues his next chapter. While I’ll miss having him as a great partner, I will always value him as a beloved friend. All of us at Fox wish him continued and even greater successes in the future.”
Rothman is one of the longest tenured studio heads in the modern Hollywood era, and has supervised filmmaking activities at Fox for over eighteen years.  Before becoming Chairman, he held the positions of President of Twentieth Century Fox Film Group, President of Production for Twentieth Century Fox and, in 1994, was founder and President of Fox Searchlight.  A few of the many enduring films made under his oversight include:  Life of Pi, Taken, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Black Swan, Cast Away, Master and Commander, Walk the Line, Juno, The Devil Wears Prada, Borat, the X-Men and Ice Age series, Little Miss Sunshine, Minority Report, Moulin Rouge, Boys Don’t Cry, Sideways, There’s Something About Mary and the top two grossing movies of all time: Titanic and Avatar.  Fox Films during this time have been nominated for over 100 Academy Awards, won three Best Pictures, and earned in excess of $25 billion in worldwide box office.

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