DreamWorks Animation appoints new chief financial officer

DreamWorks Animation has appointed a new chief financial officer, in the latest in a series of management changes at the Glendale studio.

Fazal Merchant, a former executive at DirecTV and Barclays Capital, has been tapped as the company’s finance chief. He succeeds Lew Coleman, who will focus on global growth initiatives as vice chairman, the studio said Monday morning.

“As we transition and augment our executive leadership team to best fit the needs of the
company, I’m thrilled to welcome Fazal into the role of CFO,” Coleman said in a statement. “He brings with him not only passion for our business, but also experience drawn from senior leadership roles across multiple industries, which will be an incredible asset as we continue to grow and diversify.”

Investors welcomed the news. In early trading Monday, DreamWorks Animation shares were up 6% to $21.77.

The appointment comes less than a month after the studio promoted Ann Daly to company president and tapped former Disney executive Mark Zoradi to be chief operating officer. As part of the changes, Coleman, who had been the company’s president, was named vice chairman.


Coleman, who is also the company’s chief accounting officer, was recently named in a shareholder lawsuit filed against the animation studio. The lawsuit, one of several shareholder actions, contends that the company had misled investors about the poor performance of its 2013 movie “Turbo.”

DreamWorks Animation said last month that the Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating the “Turbo” write-down. The company’s shares fell 12% after that announcement. The stock price last week was down more than 40% from late February.

The cases center on the timing of a $13.5-million write-down the company announced in February for “Turbo,” the snail comedy that opened in the summer of 2013.

The write-down was the latest box-office misfire for DreamWorks Animation in the last two years. The studio also took an $87-million write-down for “Rise of the Guardians” and a $57-million write-down for “Mr. Peabody & Sherman.”

The company has had more success with its latest movie, “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” which recently crossed the $500-million mark at the box office. The film generated $26.2 million in its opening weekend in China, the best ever opening for an animated movie in China.

Merchant will officially start on Sept. 15. He was most recently senior vice president and chief financial officer of DirecTV Latin America. Before joining DirecTV in July 2012, he was a managing director and group head at the Royal Bank of Scotland.

He also has been a managing director in the investment banking division of Barclays Capital, and spent nine years at Ford Motor Co. in various treasury and finance management positions.