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Illumination COO Natalie Fischer Stepping Aside; Ex-Jim Henson Boss To Replace Her

Deadline logo Deadline 2/23/2017 Patrick Hipes
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Natalie Fischer, a key figure in the launch of Chris Meledandri’s Illumination and its chief operating officer since 2012, will be stepping aside later this year to move into an advisor role. The Universal-based company made the announcement today and said that former Jim Henson Company president Peter Schube has been tapped to replace her.

The news comes as Illumination also announced the hires of YouTube exec Scott Broock as EVP Digital Strategy and Innovation, and DreamWorks Animation veteran Latifa Ouaou as executive producer.

Schube spent the better part of three decades at Jim Henson Co most recently as president and COO before exiting in August 2016. He will work alongside Meledandri at Illumination on business strategy and oversee core business operations including finance, business development and administrative functions.

“We are fortunate to have someone as experienced as Peter, who led The Jim Henson Company brand for more than a decade, join the team as our new COO. The addition of Scott and Latifa, each a leader in their field, will enable us to creatively innovate in both the theatrical and digital-first environments,” Meledandri said in the release announcing the news. “From our inception, Natalie has played a crucial role in shaping our identity and building our brand, and we are so fortunate she has agreed to stay in the extended Illumination family.”

Fischer became the company’s first COO in August 2012 as its creative output grew. She had been Illumination’s Head Of Business Development after moving over in 2009 from Universal, where as SVP Business Development and Strategy she worked closely with Meledandri as the original business plan took shape before Illumination’s 2007 launch.

Her exit looks to be timed to the worldwide release of Despicable Me 3, which returns stars Steve Carell and Kristen Wiig to the company’s first franchise and hits theaters June 30. In total, Illumination’s films have grossed more than $4.5 billion in worldwide box office.

“I am extremely grateful to Chris and the team of talented, passionate and dedicated executives at Illumination and Universal for the opportunity to be a part of building such a remarkable company,” Fischer said today.

At The Henson Company, Schube worked alongside the Henson family heirs and ran day-to-day operations and worldwide business activities. He was also responsible for sales, finance and human resources functions.

Broock had the title of Global Virtual Reality Evangelist at YouTube; at Illumination he will be tasked with leading digital strategy working with the rest of the company’s divisions and outside partners to leverage Illumination’s existing franchises and newly created properties in the digital space. Formerly a VP at VR company Jaunt, he also produced viral campaigns and branded series for ABC News and Nickelodeon.

Ouaou’s credits include DWA’s Puss In Boots and Monsters Vs. Aliens and she worked as an art department coordinator on A.I. Artificial Intelligence, How The Grinch Stole Christmas and Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back. She jumps from DWA to its new sister animation shingle after Jeffrey

Katzenberg’s studio was acquired by NBCUniversal’;s Comcast in August for $3.8 billion. DWA is part of the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group that includes Universal Pictures, Fandango and NBCUniversal Brand Development.

After scoring hits with The Secret Life Of Pets ($875.5M global b.o.) and Sing ($531M) in 2016, Illumination’s pipeline includes Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, which is set for November 2018; Secret Life Of Pets 2 in July 2019; Minions 2 in July 2020; and Sing 2 in December 2020.

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