Robert Halmi Sr, founder of US miniseries and TV movie specialist RHI Entertainment, is stepping down from the company at the age of 88.
Halmi Sr has been responsible for more than 200 television movies and miniseries, and won over 100 Emmys, with titles including Don Quixote, Gulliver’s Travels and Alice in Wonderland.
His exit comes six months after his son, Robert Halmi Jr, resigned as CEO following a turbulent few years during which RHI was forced to delist from Nasdaq and put itself into bankruptcy protection.
At the time, Halmi Sr, a Hungarian immigrant who set up the business that bears his initials in 1979, said he would remain with the firm under a long-term production agreement.
However, with RHI having emerged from bankruptcy protection and appointed a new management team, he is leaving – but not to retire. He will set up a new independent production company based in New York and continue to work on projects he set in motion while at RHI.
“I am extremely excited about what the future has in store, having just celebrated my 88th birthday,” commented Halmi. “I became a producer so that I could follow my passion and create great programming that captivates and enchants audiences. This arrangement allows me the creative freedom to focus exclusively on what has inspired me from the beginning. I am thrilled to be able to continue to do what I have always loved the most.”
The new-look RHI is also shifting direction. Announcing Halmi’s exit, board chairman Gabriel de Alba said: “As our new management team re-focuses our production strategy, we intend to broaden our portfolio to include television series and other formats that have not traditionally been central to RHI’s business model. This new agreement is ideal for both parties. It ensures that our working relationship with Robert continues and that we can benefit from his singular creative vision, even as the company grows into new areas.”
Halmi Sr’s most recent projects include Neverland for Sky Movies HD and SyFy; Alice, a modern-day spin on the classic stories by Lewis Carroll, also for SyFy; The Last Templar, for NBC; and Treasure Island, for Sky One and Syfy.
Halmi was active in the anti-Nazi underground in the Second World War and later was arrested by the Communists when they took over the country. He came to the US in 1950 and worked for many years as an award-winning photographer for Life Magazine before moving into film and television production.
In 1994, he sold his company, RHI Entertainment, to Hallmark Cards for US$365m and in January 2006, together with Halmi Jr, bought back what had become Hallmark Entertainment for US$700m, relaunching it as RHI.
But the move saddled the business with US$609m of debt and an IPO in 2008 raised far less than had been hoped for. Halmi Jr admitted to C21 in December 2010 that it had been “a terrible public offering” and the firm was forced to delist from Nasdaq.