Tiger Aspect Productions managing director Andrew Zein is to leave the company after 13 years to join Warner Bros.

He will join Warner Bros International Television Distribution’s production unit - founded in London last August - as senior vice president of creative, format development and sales.

Zein will be responsible for identifying production companies that could be acquired to help grow the company, and puts him in charge of all of the unit’s programme development and production across the world.

He will report to Ronald Goes, executive vice president and head of international television production at WBITD.

Amicable departure

The move comes less than two months after IMG Media sold Tiger Aspect to Endemol in a £30m deal, which also included Darlow Smithson Productions. Zein’s position was made less crucial by the change in ownership but his departure is understood to be entirely amicable.

“This isn’t about Tiger/Endemol. Genuinely, UK television is a good place for bigger indies [at the moment]. But the chance to join Warner Bros at this phase and with such an ambitious set of goals was irresistible,” Zein said.

“The ambition is to become a leading international television producer – our mandate is to acquire or build production companies in major territories around the world. From the point of view of television production, Warner Brothers is unrivalled in the US and they want to replicate that abroad.”

Zein will leave Tiger in “months rather than weeks”.

Goes said: “Andrew has sharp creative instincts and is a growth-oriented business strategist, the perfect skill set for our new venture.”

Previous approach

Warner Bros had been courting Zein for a number of years and had made an approach for Tiger Aspect when it was put up for sale by IMG last summer. It re-started discussions with Zein just before Christmas.

Tiger chairman Peter Bennett Jones, who spotted Zein as a runner and has overseen his rapid rise at the indie, said: “He has been absolutely terrific and has made a fantastic contribution here over 13 years.

“We all tried to do what we could to get him to stay and it was a pretty close call but in the end he chose the new challenge. I’m really sad… as is the local restaurant trade in Soho.”

Tiger: business as usual

He added that it will be “business as usual at Tiger”, which has five or six “very active programming areas run by very different creative heads” and strong support from Endemol.

“We are owned by real, heavyweight television professionals. None of the work will be affected by it,” Bennett Jones said.

Endemol has not yet formed its succession plan and may not replace Zein at all.

Tim Hincks, chief executive of Endemol, said: “We are not in a mad rush to find someone to do the job Andrew has been doing. We are going to work very closely with the team at Tiger to work out how we can grow the company with the creatives there.”

He added: “Andrew has been utterly professional throughout the transition [from IMG] and has been an absolute pleasure to work with.”

It is understood Endemol has signed tie-in deals with all of Tiger’s key creatives since it acquired the company. Under IMG there were no tie-in deals and key execs were just on six months notice.