After what one source describes as “several years of frustration,” Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has pulled off a reorganization of the vaunted film company that has him reporting to Disney studio chief Alan Horn as opposed to the infamously micromanaging Marvel Entertainment CEO Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter.
Feige, the architect of Marvel’s transition from a flailing comic book company into a film powerhouse that was sold to Disney for $4 billion in 2009, is said to have vented his unhappiness to Horn and Disney CEO Bob Iger earlier this summer. The reorganization was put into effect last week, according to sources.
“Marvel Studios is taking the next logical step in its integration with The Walt Disney Studios, joining Pixar and Lucasfilm in centralizing many of its film-related functions in Burbank, with Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and co-president Louis D’Esposito continuing to lead the Marvel Studios team reporting to Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn,” a Disney spokesperson tells THR in a statement.
The revamp is a blow to New York-based Perlmutter, a low-profile billionaire who has contributed to Marvel’s reputation in Hollywood for frugality and secrecy (as THR reported in a 2014 feature, he attended the premiere of Iron Man in a disguise to go undetected and once complained that journalists at a press junket were allowed two sodas instead of one). Jeph Loeb, head of Marvel Television, continues to report to Perlmutter, who will maintain oversight of Marvel’s TV group, publishing, animation and other New York-based operations.
Perlmutter, 72, is said to have accepted Feige’s insistence on the film group breaking free. But the move illustrates the power that Feige has amassed within the Disney empire, having overseen a slate of films since 2009 that has grossed more than $7 billion while rival Warner Bros. has struggled to turn its DC superheroes into a comparable cinematic universe. Disney has plotted out Marvel films until at least 2019.
The shift also evidences the tricky executive politics that Iger must manage as a result of assembling several freestanding feifdoms under the Disney banner over the past decade. Pixar Animation Studios, Lucasfilm and Marvel have been key acquisitions that brought with them valuable intellectual property assets and creative expertise. But each silo is overseen by powerful executives such as animation gurus John Lasseter and Ed Catmull, producer Kathleen Kennedy and Perlmutter and Feige, respectively, all of whom have tremendous influence within their corner of the Disney empire.
Feige, 42, has been considered the key man at Marvel, producing everything from the original Iron Man through this summer’s Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man. One insider says Feige has earned the opportunity to break free from Perlmutter, who is not only controlling, but also obsessed with thrift.
“Everybody knows Ike is difficult,” says one source close to the company. “This has been a long time coming. Kevin has grown his entire career under Ike and now it just makes sense.”