After little over a year as president of Mandalay Media Arts – a position created especially for him – Justin Albert has taken his leave of the L.A.-based company and returned to TransAtlantic Films in London. Although both parties described the split as amicable, there are no plans for future cooperation.
‘We’ve severed our ties with Justin,’ says MMA’s co-chairman Barry Clark. ‘There is no consultancy arrangement involved, there is no further discussion of cooperating on projects, between either Mandalay and TransAtlantic or Mandalay and himself . . . It was certainly understood by both parties that a divorce was necessary.’ Albert’s vision for the company
ultimately diverged from Mandalay’s original remit too significantly for the relationship to continue. Says Albert: ‘I believe its important for companies to do low, medium and high-range programs. This is one of the things that Barry and I disagreed on . . . Mandalay very much focuses on the high end.’
As president of MMA, Albert pushed for certain projects with the likes of the Discovery Channel and TLC, but Mandalay wanted no part of them, Clark says. ‘Our real goals at Mandalay are to do evergreen, cosmopolitan programs that have a long shelf life, that we feel are worth investing in as deficit financiers. So, we’re very discriminating about the sorts of projects we would put money into.’
Albert says he is currently ‘deep in negotiations’ with Discovery to develop these same projects under the TransAtlantic banner. One is a 3 x 1 hour about the modern American military (budget US$400,000 per hour) and the other is a 2-hour special on British royal ship the Queen Elizabeth ii ($500,000-$550,000 per hour). ‘I consider low range about $150,000-$200,000 per hour,’ he adds.
Albert’s new title at TransAtlantic is yet to be determined, though he’s toying with `president of the United States.’ He plans to set up a major multimedia production company in Washington, D.C., partnering with TransAtlantic and other partners, who are soon to be announced. ‘I think the primary reason for leaving Mandalay was I personally felt I was too far away from the real hub of non-fiction, and that hub and access operates between London and the east coast, not between London, the east coast and Los Angeles.’
At TransAtlantic’s London office, Corisande Albert (Justin’s sister) will remain managing director, the position she assumed when her brother left.
Clark says there are no immediate plans to replace Albert at Mandalay.