Roger Birnbaum, left, and Gary Barber. Birnbaum will exit his post as co-CEO… (Kevin Winter / Getty Images )
In a surprise move coming less than two years after Roger Birnbaum was appointed co-chairman and co-CEO of MGM, the executive is seguing into an exclusive producing deal with the studio, the company announced Wednesday morning.
Birnbaum's longtime producing partner and current MGM co-chairman Gary Barber will become the sole chairman and CEO.
Birnbaum, who has a long history as a producer in Hollywood, will remain at his MGM offices producing and developing new projects for the studio.
“Gary and I decided, 2 years ago, to accept the challenge of joining MGM and restoring the company to its rightful place in the industry," Birnbaum said in a statement. "I am very proud of where MGM is today. I have been in the film business a long time, and my greatest passion has always been producing. Now is the time for me to return to what I love to do the most...producing films."
Since the two took the reins of MGM in 2010 after it emerged from bankruptcy, the studio has formed numerous distribution and co-financing deals with studios around town including one with Sony Pictures Entertainment that includes shared rights for "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," "21 Jump Street" and the upcoming James Bond film "Skyfall."
The duo also solidified the studio's investment in "The Hobbit" trilogy with Warner Bros. and its subsidiary New Line Cinema. It is also partnered with Paramount Pictures on "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" and the recently delayed sequel "GI Joe: Retaliation."
MGM's own production slate includes the Jose Padilha-directed "Robocop" reboot with Sony and the "Carrie" remake with Sony's Screen Gems.
INTERACTIVE: TVs highest paid starts
QUIZ: Celebrity voice overs
PHOTOS: Hollywood back lot moments