UPDATED with Watts’ memo to staff: STX Entertainment president Sophie Watts is exiting her post “to focus on new business opportunities,” STX said today. She had been president since the company’s beginning, and will remain a strategic advisor. STX said that for the time being all divisions previously reporting to Watts will now report directly to CEO Bob Simonds or COO Thomas B. McGrath.
Watts sent an email to staff saying today with “mixed emotions” it her last day (read the memo in full below).
“Sophie is a force of nature. She is an incredibly talented, versatile executive who has
been central to every aspect of growing the Company, both domestically and internationally,
from inception to the multi-billion-dollar endeavor it is today,” Simonds said in the release just out. “She has been a great friend and trusted colleague for many years, and her DNA is inextricably intertwined with every part of STX. I am deeply thankful for the ferocious intelligence, tenacity, loyalty, and commitment she has brought to us. I look forward to her continued, valuable support and I can’t wait to see what she chooses to do next.”
Watts has been a major driver of STX’s growth, helping to stratagize the lines of business that now include film production, acquisition and distribution; TV production and acquisition; digital content creation and distribution; VR production and distribution; and developing China-U.S. media relationships. She directly oversaw STX’s digital, VR and unscripted TV studios.
In November, STX landed an investment from John Malone’s Liberty Global that a source says values the studio founded by Simonds and TPG Growth’s Bill McGlashan at $1.5 billion. The infusion comes ahead of a planned IPO on the Hong Kong stock exchange sometime this in which the company plans to raise $500 million.
Before STX, the London-born Watts was involved in music film and videos working with the likes of Paul McCartney, Elton John, U2, Beyoncé, Madonna and Mariah Carey. In the U.S. her producing credits include 2011’s Bully, which won a PGA Award.
“STX has been a life-changing experience for me, not only because of the company’s
phenomenal growth and unique approach to global creativity, but because of the hundreds of
spectacular people who make it such an extraordinary place to work,” Watts said today. “After more than six years working with Bob, I have decided to step away from my day-to-day role as President of the company to explore new opportunities.
“I want to deeply thank Bob Simonds, Bill McGlashan at TPG Growth, John Zhao at Hony, and the rest of the board for backing this venture. I truly believe that we – the entire STX team – have built a new global media company that is a custom-built home for stars and creators to tell their stories anywhere and through any format. I look forward to seeing the company continue to grow and break new boundaries in the future.”
Here’s Watts’ memo:
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
It is with mixed emotions that after more than six intense and tremendous years, today is officially my last day at STX. After nurturing the company since its inception, I feel lucky to have achieved more than I could have dreamed of here, and I’ve made the hard decision that it’s time for me to leave to explore new opportunities. Thanks to your tireless efforts, we have transformed this company from a two-person start-up into a multi-billion-dollar enterprise. Through the dozens of movies, TV shows, reality shows and virtual reality experiences we make, market and distribute every year, our work has touched and will continue to touch the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world. I resign from the company more confident than ever about the future that lies ahead for STX.
Given that you have all been such an enormous part of my life, I wanted to tell you how I got here. I was raised between London and the English countryside by parents working in music video and national newspapers. As a teenager, I dreamed of also working in media. I pored over music, films and TV shows, soaking up everything I could learn. In-between studying the economic rise of Asia (and especially China) at Cambridge, I worked for pop stars on concert shoots, initially getting coffee for the person who got coffee for them, then working my way up to producing their live concert films. When I moved to Los Angeles, I scrambled to finance documentaries. I traveled the country meeting people. I cold-called every company I could find, and I worked all hours of the day and night until they merged into one.
In the Fall of 2011, I started collaborating with Bob Simonds on a new idea for a next-generation media company. Backed by Bill McGlashan at TPG Growth, our goal was to help talent realize their personal visions, whether through film, TV, short-form or other content – to back a global star and move all the obstacles out of their way. We had an unwavering belief in the notion of empowering the artist, and the plan was to design an organization that gave talent the infrastructure and financing for them to express themselves in the truest and broadest-reaching way possible. Our star-driven concept quickly took off, securing relationships and international support, particularly from China. At 28, I sat with Bob on a phone call with countless numbers of bankers, investors, lawyers and advisors from across the world as our first financing round closed; I was formalized as President of the embryonic STX Entertainment, the first of hundreds of people who now call STX home.
Since then, I have been grateful to shepherd major deals at the company, forge relationships with company partners, support many brilliant artists, design your offices, travel the world many times over, and help expand our capabilities and reach to grow this business into the media heavyweight it is today.
But I say all this only because I wanted to stress that from day one, nothing has been as important to me as growing alongside all of you. I have been to concerts with your children, laughed and cried with you at premieres, and been privileged to hear the stories of your lives. You have been the absolute key to the success of this company and the vital piece to feeling that STX is something larger than just a business. I leave knowing this team will continue to do extraordinary work and that the next phase of STX’s evolution will yield even more innovation, more unique talent-driven projects, and more happy audiences and investors.
I hope I did you proud.