Gumpert was much loved on Sony’s lot for his affable nature and was respected for his dealmaking prowess. He found himself, however, increasingly at odds with Tom Rothman, the newly installed studio chief who has taken a more bottom-line oriented approach to running the company. The departure was described by one Sony insider as a “mutual” parting of the ways after both men felt they were unable to work well together. Gumpert balked at Rothman’s approach, while Rothman felt he was not getting the support he needed from the executive.
In a letter to staff, Rothman praised Gumpert’s contributions to Sony, writing, “Andrew has expertly guided SPE through some of the studio’s biggest and most complex deals, and made possible many of our greatest successes.”
Since taking over for Amy Pascal in 2015, Rothman has set out to revitalize a film slate that was filled with box office duds such as “The Brothers Grimsby,” “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” and “Inferno.” He’s tried to rein in costs, backing a series of economical horror hits such as “The Shallows” and “Don’t Breathe,” while also trying to build out the studio’s global operations. Some of the belt-tightening is paying off. Sony’s film division posted a $32 million profit in the most recent fiscal quarter — an improvement on its loss of $187 million in the year-ago earnings period.
Rothman’s abrasive style has created enemies, however. Last week, Variety broke the news that Rothman had clashed repeatedly with director Ang Lee on the production of “Billy Lynn’s Long Half Time Walk.” In a separate story, we also revealed that several executives have complained to human resources about his management approach.
Marshall joined the company in 2008 as senior vice president of business affairs, working on deals for “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” and “The Equalizer.” He was also involved in several upcoming projects, including Sony’s reboot of “Spider-Man” with Marvel, and an adaptation of Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” series of novels.
Before joining Columbia Pictures, Marshall held the position of executive vice president of business and legal affairs at Our Stories Films, and headed business and legal affairs at Marvel. He has also worked at Dimension Films, Universal Pictures, Arama Entertainment, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Here’s the full text of Rothman’s memo to staff:
I am writing to inform you of some important changes taking place within Business Affairs in the Motion Picture Group.
Andrew Gumpert, President of Business Affairs for MPG, will be leaving the company this week. Concurrent with Andrew’s departure, Mike Marshall will be promoted to President of business affairs for Columbia Pictures.
I want to thank Andrew for his years of outstanding service to SPE. Andrew has expertly guided SPE through some of the studio’s biggest and most complex deals, and made possible many of our greatest successes. I wish him all the best in the next chapter of his career.
Mike is an absolute pro with firm commitment to our mission, and I am thrilled to have him at the helm of business affairs at our flagship label. We anticipate a seamless transition.
For the last 20 months, we have worked together to restructure and strengthen the Motion Picture Group. As you all know, the kind of wholesale change we are working towards is a challenging effort that takes time, and I want to thank all of you for your ongoing commitment. We are feeling very good about our recent results, as evidenced by the recent quarterly earnings report, and, moving forward into 2017, confident in our new slate and turnaround efforts overall.
Please join me in thanking Andrew for his contributions to SPE and congratulating Mike on his promotion.