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Image Entertainment Staffers Depart

1 May, 2013 By: Erik Gruenwedel

As many as 15 employees at Image Entertainment, including senior sales executive Ray Gagnon, have exited the Chatsworth, Calif.-based home entertainment distributor, according to a source familiar with the situation.

The departures, which occurred last week and amounted to about 20% of Image’s workforce, proceeded the April 29 announced resignation of John Hyde from the board of parent RLJ Entertainment. Hyde had been COO at Image, reporting to CEO Ted Green, who left Image in January eight months after it was acquired (along with Acorn Media) by RLJ Enterprises, which is owned by B.E.T. founder Robert Johnson.

Acorn CEO Miguel Penella assumed Green’s position as CEO of RLJ Entertainment, with CFO John Avagliano retaining his title. Alan Fergurson, SVP of sales, left Image last October to start his own consulting business.

The downsizing follows fiscal 2012 results that saw RLJ Entertainment report a $1.7 million profit, largely due to higher contributions from Acorn Media in the wholesale and direct-to-consumer businesses and merchandise, and offset by lower revenue at Image due to a smaller slate of film releases in 2012 versus 2011.

Indeed, Penella in 2012 received a $1.1 million bonus (including a $600,000 retention fee following the RLJ acquisition), forgiveness of a $1.1 million note (plus interest) and a $450,000 base salary for a total compensation of more than $2.6 million, according to a regulatory filing.

New York-based Acorn’s fiscal success, including its Acorn TV streaming service, appears to be the catalyst for changes in management, according to the source.

“Image is bearing the brunt,” the source said. “Looks like Acorn is definitely in the driver’s seat for the new company. Acorn’s history of profitability made it an easy choice for RLJ to put it in control.”

That control could include Image moving from its longtime Chatsworth, Calif., headquarter. A RLJ Entertainment representative was not immediately available for comment.

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