ProSiebenSat.1, which owns the “Love is Blind” producer, revealed on Wednesday that Baker’s contract with the business, which runs until the end of 2020, will not be renewed, marking an end to his 10-year tenure.
It’s believed Baker will return to the media investment sector in 2021, and also plans to expand his Swiss chocolate business, Jungcow.
Following his departure, ProSiebenSat.1 will install an advisory board at Red Arrow Studios, comprising of Rainer Beaujean, chairman of the executive board and CFO of ProSiebenSat.1 Media SE; Wolfgang Link, member of the board and CEO of SevenOne Entertainment; and Henrik Pabst, chief content officer for SevenOne Entertainment.
The existing Red Arrow Studios management team will report directly to the new advisory board. This new structure underlines ProSiebenSat.1’s strategy to focus on local and live entertainment in Germany, Austria and Switzerland in cooperation with Red Arrow Studios.
Baker’s exit punctuates an unsettled period for Red Arrow, which ProSiebenSat.1 was looking to offload. The media giant launched a strategic review of the production and distribution division in September with the aim of selling it or forming a partnership with other potential investors.
However, in February, ProSiebenSat.1 decided to keep the business — which had a big hit on its hands with Kinetic Content’s “Love is Blind” for Netflix early this year — after determining that a sale or partial sale of the group was no longer possible due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Insiders told Variety, however, that a more likely scenario was that ProSiebenSat.1 was struggling to get a bidding process underway due to disagreements around Red Arrow’s valuation — estimated at around $278 million.
“We have now closed the process for the strategic review of Red Arrow Studios as various options we were evaluating are no longer viable in a coronavirus crisis environment,” a ProSiebenSat.1 spokesperson said back in March. “We strongly believe in the business. It posted a record 2019. ‘Love is Blind’ is the smash hit on Netflix to just name one of our great lineup. We have a great team. And we are all in and will remain so.”
It appears, however, that not all are in. Baker’s departure comes just weeks after an overhaul on the distribution arm of the business, Red Arrow Studios International, which saw Bo Stehmeier — who took over for Henrik Pabst in 2019 — leave to rejoin Off the Fence. Joel Denton stepped in as acting president earlier this month.
Beaujean said: “Red Arrow Studios is a successful international content production and distribution company, and therefore an important part of ProSiebenSat.1. Over the last 10 years James has developed and strengthened the operational performance of Red Arrow Studios – including an 18% growth in revenues in 2019 – and he has successfully driven the expansion of our German content ecosystem. We would like to thank him for his contribution to the business and wish him every success for the future.”
Baker added: “I have greatly enjoyed the last 10 years at Red Arrow Studios, working with talented people and creating exciting content around the world. Red Arrow Studios is in the good hands of my senior leadership team, and I wish everyone the very best.”