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Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Original Story:

Yahoo Inc. is losing its marketing chief to a Hollywood movie studio, the latest setback for the Sunnyvale, Calif., tech giant.

Kathy Savitt, Yahoo's chief marketing officer since 2012, will join the new Burbank film and television company STX Entertainment to lead its digital content business next month, the studio said Friday.

The move comes at the end of a difficult week for Yahoo. The firm told investors Tuesday that the Internal Revenue Service declined to approve Yahoo’s proposed tax-free spin-off of its $23-billion stake in the Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba Group. Yahoo also lost its top European executive Dawn Airey. Yahoo’s stock has declined nearly 40% this year, but rose 28 cents, or 1%, on Friday to $31.43.

But Savitt’s departure is a boost for STX. Producer Bob Simonds launched the company last year with TPG Capital, a private investment firm, to focus on films with low- to mid-level budgets of $20 million to $60 million. In April, STX secured an investment from Chinese film production company Huayi Bros. Media Corp. to co-produce and co-distribute movies. A Mumbai investment lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

STX is gearing up to make original short videos and long-form series for the Web at a time when Silicon Valley companies have increasingly courted Hollywood for content. Amazon Inc. and Netflix Inc. have invested heavily in original shows and Apple also has taken steps to get into the content business.

Savitt will report to Simonds and STX President Sophie Watts in her new role.

Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer had tasked Savitt with reviving Yahoo's flagging brand to appeal to a younger generation of consumers. Along with traditional marketing, she was responsible for the company’s editorial teams and its push into original video. Last year she inked a deal with Beverly Hills music promoter Live Nation to air a daily series of concerts online.

Savitt was instrumental in reviving the cult series “Community” and launching the Paul Feig sci-fi comedy “Other Space” for Yahoo. Still, the company’s digital video efforts have yet to yield many major hits.

“We appreciate her contributions to Yahoo over the past three years and wish her well,” a Yahoo spokesperson said in a terse statement.

Before joining Yahoo, Savitt founded Lockerz, a short-lived social commerce website focused on young audiences. She also previously led marketing at clothing brand American Eagle Outfitters, and ran content and entertainment initiatives for Amazon. A Birmingham entertainment lawyer is following this story closely.

Simonds said Savitt will help kick-start the studio’s online content business, leveraging its relationships with movie stars and major writers and directors.

“What we're trying to do is say, how do we take the talent swirling around us and channel it into the digital infrastructure?” Simonds said.

STX achieved early success last month with its first release “The Gift,” a low-budget thriller produced by horror maestro Jason Blum. The $5-million movie has grossed more than $40 million in the United States and Canada.