Andy Lau and Zhang Yimou promote the movie The Great Wall, at its premiere in Hong Kong. The movie is produced by China-based Legendary East, a subsidiary of Legendary Pictures.
Thomas Tull, founder and CEO of Legendary Entertainment, will be leaving the Hollywood studio, reportedly due to pressure from Dalian Wanda Group.
Jack Gao, Wanda's CEO and senior vice-president of international investments and operations, will manage Legendary while it seeks a new CEO, according to the Hollywood Reporter, which first reported the departure.
"We are thankful to Thomas for his founding vision of Legendary, as well as his commitment, leadership and partnership this past year. He will forever be part of the company's already rich legacy and powerful DNA," Gao said in a statement.
"As we move forward, Wanda aims to transform Legendary into a next generation studio of the future with a far-reaching creative and global platform. We look forward to working with the creative team to manage our already viable film slate with more to come in the near future," he said.
Wanda did not respond to a request for comment.
Wanda purchased Legendary Entertainment for .5 billion in early 2016, making it the largest Chinese acquisition of a US movie studio and marking the first concrete step in Wanda's ambitions to grow in Hollywood.
Wanda had previously purchased a majority stake in movie chain AMC Entertainment, but Legendary was the company's first studio purchase.
Tull's departure comes as no surprise to those in the industry, with many noting that new ownership often leads to executive departures from the company that was acquired.
"Thomas is a man who creates and has been enormously successful," said Marc Ganis, co-founder of Jiaflix, a US distribution company that works in China. "He's also a person who's been in control of this company, right from the outset. People who do that－as a general rule, not just Thomas－don't generally last very long working for others."
"Tull was in total control. When the person in total control, who's had success, goes and fund-raises, it's an easier process. When you're fund-raising and you don't have that same control, and you can't make those same assurances, it becomes more challenging," he said.
Last year NBC Universal acquired DreamWorks Animation for .6 billion and its founder Jeffrey Katzenberg stepped aside. Examples are not limited to Hollywood. Yahoo's CEO Marissa Meyer will step down after Verizon completes its acquisition of the tech company.
Christopher Spicer, an entertainment lawyer with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, said that "Thomas Tull has a lot of other exciting companies to build in the digital space" and will not be lacking for opportunities after his exit from Legendary.