Thomas Tull has stepped down as chief executive of Legendary Entertainment, the production company he founded and made into a Hollywood powerhouse and then sold to Dalian Wanda Group Co. Ltd. of China a year ago.
Jack Gao has been named as interim chief executive of Legendary, in Burbank, until a permanent replacement is named. Gao has been with Wanda since 2015 and worked at News Corp. and Microsoft Corp. prior to that.
“I am able to leave and pursue the new interests and endeavors I have been planning,” Tull, 46, of Thousand Oaks, said in a prepared statement.
Tull plans to spend time on Tull Investment Group, a firm investing in life science, media and technology firms. He keeps the title of founding chairman of Legendary and a stakeholder in the company.
Tull founded Legendary in 2005 with $500 million from multiple financial backers and built it into a Hollywood powerhouse by producing such film franchises as “The Dark Knight” and “The Hangover” films, and the 2015 blockbuster, “Jurassic World.” The company got a distribution agreement with Warner Bros. Entertainment that expired in 2013 and now has a five-year co-financing and distribution deal with Universal Pictures, the NBCUniversal Inc. studio in Universal City.
Recently, however, Legendary productions have underperformed, including “Crimson Peak” and “Warcraft.” The company’s next U.S. release is “The Great Wall” in February, a co-production with the Chinese that has grossed more than $190 million overseas.
Dalian Wanda’s Legendary purchase, valued at $3.5 billion, last January also gave the company and Wang Jianlin, China’s richest man and head of Wanda Group, an extension in the American entertainment industry. The Chinese company already owns AMC Entertainment Holdings, the second-largest movie theater chain in North America.