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Focus Features co-CEO Andrew Karpen departing amid executive changes

As part of its ongoing makeover, Focus Features announced a slew of executive changes Tuesday afternoon, including the departure of co-Chief Executive Andrew Karpen.

Earlier this month, parent Universal Pictures set into motion an overhaul of the specialty imprint, naming FilmDistrict founder Peter Schlessel its new head. 

Schlessel, FilmDistrict's chief executive, will assume the CEO role at Focus in January. James Schamus, Focus' current chief executive, departed the company, whose headquarters are being relocated from New York to the Universal lot.

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Focus is best known for such films as "Brokeback Mountain," "Moonrise Kingdom," "Atonement" and "The Kids Are All Right." The company will release the Matthew McConaughey-starring "Dallas Buyers Club" next month and is producing the "Fifty Shades of Grey" film adaptation, to be released next year.

Universal said in a statement that Karpen was asked to remain with Focus but "decided to leave the company in order to remain in New York with his family." 

“After giving this opportunity much consideration, I’ve decided that this is simply not the right time for me to relocate my family to Los Angeles,” Karpen said in a statement. “I’m incredibly proud of all that we’ve accomplished at Focus, and know that the new company will thrive under Peter’s leadership.”

Schlessel said in a statement that he was "disappointed" that Karpen wouldn't remain with the company, adding that he respects the executive's "commitment to his family and life in New York.”

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Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.-owned NBCUniversal, said Schlessel would broaden the types of movies Focus puts out and release as many as 10 films annually.

The ongoing executive shuffle and the shift in Focus' mandate is the first significant change at Universal since Donna Langley was elevated to chairman of the company and former head Adam Fogelson was forced out in September. 

As part of the reorganization, several FilmDistrict executives are joining Focus. FilmDistrict Chief Operating Officer Adrian Alperovich and FilmDistrict President of Marketing Christine Birch will assume the same roles at Focus. FilmDistrict's Jim Orr also is joining Focus, where he will be president of distribution. 

FilmDistrict's Lia Buman will become president of acquisitions at Focus. She will work with the company's president of production, Jeb Brody, on shaping its slate, Focus said. Like Brody, Focus' Adriene Bowles, the company's president of publicity and executive vice president of marketing, will retain her current title and responsibilities.


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