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De Laurentiis Resigns From Film Group

February 20, 1988|AL DELUGACH | Times Staff Writer

Crippled by box office failures, publicly traded De Laurentiis Entertainment Group announced Friday that founder Dino De Laurentiis has officially departed his $850,000-a-year job as chairman and chief executive.

The widely known Italian-born movie maker revealed last November that he planned to resign and that his name would be removed from the firm. His daughter, Raffaella De Laurentiis, resigned as head of production last August.

In May, 1986, DEG collected some $85 million from a public sale of stock and debentures. The independent film production firm's market value has fallen from a 52-week high of $13.50 to $1 on the American Stock Exchange. In recent months, the Beverly Hills firm has been exploring a financial bailout while "temporarily" halting its release of films.

As anticipated, DEG said Friday that its board had promoted Stephen R. Greenwald to the positions vacated by the 68-year-old De Laurentiis. A lawyer, Greenwald has been DEG's chief operating officer and a member of its office of the president since that office was established last September in the midst of the company's protracted financial crisis. Earlier, he headed its corporate division.

As part of a continuing reorganization, the full dimensions of which have yet to be disclosed, DEG said it will begin the process of picking a new name.

Meanwhile, De Laurentiis has given the board a proxy to vote the approximately 60% stock interest he controls, the company said. De Laurentiis, who became a U.S. citizen in 1986 after living in this country more than 15 years, indicated previously that he intended to continue as an independent film producer.

Friday's announcement gave little information about the company's plans and future course or De Laurentiis' own plans. Neither De Laurentiis nor Greenwald were available for interviews.

Greenwald was quoted in the announcement as saying: "We now intensify the crucial and demanding process of restructuring this company. We are committed to do whatever needs to be done to make the company's business successful and to protect the interests of our investors."

A spokesman, Steven Zeller, said the company was not elaborating on its release. When asked when the board acted on De Laurentiis' resignation, he said: "No comment."

Long a major film maker in Europe, De Laurentiis put his personal stamp on many well-known films, including the Academy Award-winning "La Strada" and "Nights of Cabiria" with director Federico Fellini in the 1950s.

His many pictures since setting up operations in the United States in the early 1970s include "Serpico," "Three Days of the Condor," "Ragtime," "The Bounty," "Conan the Barbarian," "Conan the Destroyer" and a remake of the 1930s classic, "King Kong," that was the producer's only real box-office blockbuster.

A number of films made by De Laurentiis were expensive flops, and observers marveled that he never seemed to have great trouble promoting the necessary funds to continue producing.

Since selling stock to the public, DEG has produced a string of expensive losers at the box office, some of which are reflected in the $36-million loss for the fiscal nine months ended last Nov. 30. Writedowns of $6.1 million were taken in the third quarter on the disappointments released during the quarter, "Weeds," "Near Dark," "Hiding Out" and "Date With an Angel."

Last August, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused the company of failing to maintain adequate accounting records and controls after it went public. The company, without admitting or denying the allegations, settled the civil action by submitting data to the SEC.

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