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Imagine Entertainment CEO Rich Battista has left the company after just months on the job

Ron Howard and Brian Grazer speak onstage at the Genius Panel
Rich Battista in 2017.
(Joe Scarnici / Getty Images)

In a surprise move, Imagine Entertainment Chief Executive Rich Battista has left the production company founded by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, the company confirmed to The Times on Thursday.

Battista, a media industry veteran who previously ran Time Inc., is departing the Beverly Hills-based company after an unusually short stint in the CEO job. He was appointed to the position in late August.

“Rich Battista has left Imagine Entertainment,” said Grazer and Howard in a brief statement. “We thank Rich for the time he spent working with us and the contributions he made, and we wish him the best going forward.”

At the time of his selection, the roughly 90-employee firm said it was looking to Battista to help expand its business.

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The company has been growing in recent years, and now has seven divisions, including teams working not only on feature films and network TV shows, but also on streaming series, documentaries, family entertainment, branded entertainment and social impact.

Grazer, in a September interview promoting his book “Face to Face: The Art of Human Connection,” said Imagine needed someone like Battista to manage those disparate arms of the company and potentially raise capital.

“It felt like we’d better get someone who could be in the middle of all that operationally, to optimize those divisions, to raise money if it’s needed and to be the team captain,” Grazer said. “That enables Ron and I to focus on what we do the best.”

But the executives ultimately disagreed about how best to pursue growth strategies and new lines of business, said people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to comment. Both sides decided is was best to part ways sooner rather than later, given the fast changes happening in the media and entertainment industry, according to these people, who said the split was amicable.

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Before joining Imagine, Battista was president and CEO of publisher Time Inc., which was sold to Meredith Corp. for $2.8 billion in 2017. Time Inc. was the parent company of publications including Time, Sports Illustrated and Entertainment Weekly.

Previously, he was CEO of Mandalay Sports Media, after an 18 year-tenure at 21st Century Fox, where he held senior management roles, including becoming president of its national cable networks.

Grazer and Howard founded Imagine in 1986, and for years produced films for Universal Pictures. Its decades-long deal with Universal ended in 2016, and Imagine secured $100 million in financing from Raine Group to grow independently.

Imagine is best known for producing such films as “A Beautiful Mind” and “Apollo 13,” and shows such as “Arrested Development,” “Friday Night Lights” and “Empire.” This year, it produced the documentary “Pavarotti.” Its upcoming projects include a Netflix film adaptation of J.D. Vance’s memoir “Hillbilly Elegy.” Earlier this year, the company bought a stake in family entertainment brand “Tiny Chef.”

“I enjoyed the opportunity to work with Brian and Ron and the team at Imagine and I look forward to seeing what they do in the future during this exciting time in the industry,” Battista said in a statement provided by the company.


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