Loubert goes solo in wave of consolidation

In the midst of the consolidation rush that has seen a cluster of media giants on a buying spree for the past couple years, operations are beginning to take precedence and media conglomerates like Corus Entertainment are starting to trim the fat, centralizing departments and doing away with inevitable synergies.

‘The time has come that Corus will stop acquiring for a while and start operating. John Cassaday has made that clear, but this makes my job less rather than more,’ says Patrick Loubert, recently resigned cofounder of Corus-acquired Nelvana.

Despite corporate clashes or synergies, Loubert says Corus respected that it bought a 31-year-old company with a distinct culture. ‘We were largely a production company and [Corus has] left the production side alone, but times are tough – either you centralize or decentralize.’

Loubert, who in mid-November voluntarily resigned from Nelvana after 50 positions were eliminated, including that of founding partner and maverick animator Clive Smith, is an admitted casualty of centralization that has effectively taken decision-making power out of his hands.

‘It’s hard to take responsibility when you don’t have your hand on the lever anymore,’ he says. ‘As the company gets bigger, you get carried aloft, and my heart has always been in filmmaking.’

Says Nelvana cofounder Michael Hirsh: ‘Patrick was both a major production talent and a driving force behind our success with his vision, his unparalleled creative eye and his capacity to keep us focused on the essence of our art.’

But focusing on the core business is what Loubert says is needed now. ‘Times are tough for everybody….A long time ago we decided we had to be in the U.S. and Europe to finance almost any sort of budget, but now those markets are tightening. Fewer films are produced in Europe, and the U.S., for the first time, is reaching out to Canada and Europe for coproductions. Business is in a contraction.’

Loubert’s decision to leave the company he cofounded with Smith and Hirsh 31 years ago was something he says he’d been contemplating since Corus bought Nelvana more than a year ago.

‘I am sad. The one thing I did here is identify good people and (I) made sure the company held onto them. There are a lot of people I’ve hired that have been [at Nelvana] for 20 years.’

Traditionally, as co-CEOs, Loubert was responsible for production and development and Hirsh handled the sales and marketing side. Smith was the artistic force behind the company and the only member of the trio, says Loubert, who knew how to draw.

Hirsh will continue in his role as CEO of Nelvana and will lead Corus’ content division, which includes the operations of Nelvana, Kids Can Press and Balmur Corus Music.

With a two-year, exclusive development/production deal with Nelvana and a four-year output arrangement with Corus’ broadcast entities, Loubert has decided to stay true to his production roots and start up on his own. His yet-to-be-named production house will focus on television specials and series, but before Loubert gets started he says he will take some time to rest and regroup.

He has no immediate plans to work with Smith, but says ‘that’s always a possibility.’

Loubert’s resignation was effective Nov. 16.

Scott Dyer, cofounder of Windlight Studios, which was acquired by Nelvana in 1997, has been appointed senior VP in charge of production, overseeing Nelvana’s slate of programs from perennial favorites like Franklin to new brands in development, like Beyblade and Medabots.

-www.corusentertainment.com

-www.nelvana.com

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