Karen Kehela, 29, will succeed David Friendly as president of production at Imagine Entertainment, the powerful independent movie company headed by director Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer.
Kehela joins the small group of high-level Hollywood female movie executives that includes Columbia Pictures President Lisa Henson and TriStar Pictures production President Stacy Snider. Kehela began her career as an intern for Grazer eight years ago.
Kehela was promoted after Imagine was unable to come to terms on a new contract with Friendly, who has been with the company seven years. Sources said Friendly was asking for more money than Imagine wanted to pay and that he also was hoping for a partnership. His contract runs until December. It is uncertain how much longer he will remain aboard.
Friendly, a former entertainment reporter for the Los Angeles Times, told The Times that the split with Imagine is "not at all acrimonious" and that "Ron and Brian have been like family to me." He said he has no other job lined up as of now.
Kehela began at Brian Grazer Productions in 1986 after graduating from UCLA. After Imagine was formed, she rose through the ranks to senior vice president of production, moving to New York to run Imagine's New York office in September, 1990.
When that office was shuttered in late 1992, just before Howard and Grazer took the company private in March, 1993, she moved to Imagine headquarters in Century City.
Kehela said that for the entire time she has worked with Grazer and Howard, "they continued to provide opportunities for me at every turn, and, naturally, I'm especially excited about this one."