Marvel announced on Wednesday that Avi Arad is resigning from his positions as Chairman and CEO of Marvel Studios, Chief Creative Officer of Marvel, and a Marvel director to head Avi Arad Productions, which will produce films for Marvel and other clients.
Arad will continue to be Creative Advisor for Marvel through the end of the year, and to be compensated as he was in his previous positions. As of the beginning of 2007, his new outside producer deal, which ties his compensation to the box office, DVD, international, and other gross revenues produced by the films, will kick in.
Arad's production deal calls for Avi Arad Productions to produce three films for Marvel: Iron Man and Hulk for Marvel Studios, and Spider-Man 3 for Sony. His contract also gives him the right of first negotiation for any sequels.
In the conference call announcing the deal, Arad emphasized his continuing close ties to Marvel. 'I will stay very close to the characters I love,' he said. 'As you know, Marvel is my life. I have no intention of moving away from the things I love the most.' He said that he will continue to keep an office at Marvel Studios for the foreseeable future.
Arad said that he wanted to make the move to get out of the non-production duties at Marvel to give him more time to be involved in the creative process. But it's also clear that he plans to involve himself in non-Marvel films. Avi Arad Productions was recently announced as a producer for a Bratz live action film, and Arad said in the call that 'This is the kind of thing I will probably engage in.'
Arad has a non-compete which prohibits him from being involved in films featuring competitive comic book characters or fantasy action characters. Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Conan were mentioned as the kind of films he could not produce; Archie characters were cited as an example of those that would not be competitive and which he could produce.
The position of CEO of Marvel Studios will not be filled. Micheal Helfant, who joined the company late last year as President and COO will continue in that role and report to Ike Perlmutter. Kevin Feige, who has worked with Arad for the last eight years, will continue as Marvel Studio President of Production, reporting to Helfant.
Arad reiterated his statement from the last three conference calls that he can sell his 5% of Marvel shares at any time. 'I never committed to freeze my shares,' he said.
Marvel stock was down 3.63% by the close on Wednesday.
Arad has been involved with Marvel since the early 90s, when Toy Biz, which he owned with Ike Perlmutter, began making Marvel toys under license. We recall seeing the first Marvel toys that Arad, a brilliant designer, had developed at a comic distributor meeting in Montreal. It was immediately obvious that Arad understood the characters as no previous licensee had.
In the disarray surrounding Marvel's bankruptcy in the mid-90s, Toy Biz took control of Marvel and merged the companies. Since then, Arad has pursued his dream of making films and TV shows based on the Marvel characters, contributing mightily to the company's success since emerging from bankruptcy.
Although Marvel made a major effort to put a positive spin on the new production deal with Arad's production company, there is no way that this can be a good thing for Marvel. Arad was the keeper of the characters and a huge creative force at the company. The fact that his attention will now begin going in other directions, and that his input will no longer be available to Marvel's board and management, is a big loss, and one that will not easily be replaced.