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Thursday, June 12, 2014 - 2:43pm

UPDATE: Medient Confirms Shakeup, Announces More Modest Studioplex Plans

A new CEO and board chairman are taking over at Medient Studios in Savannah. The film production company confirms in a conference call with shareholders Thursday that founder Manu Kumaran is out as chairman and CEO.

Industry veteran Charles Koppelman is stepping in as board chairman.

Medient's finance chief, Jake Shapiro, is taking over as CEO. Shapiro says Kumaran was unable to carry out his own vision for the company.

"Films were not being made. The studio was not being built," Shapiro says. "Too (many) distractions in too many different directions, excessive overhead – versus running a tightly-run ship."

Shapiro says the company is cutting overhead by letting go an undisclosed number of employees.

"There’s been significant cost-cutting of overhead, of reducing people that were not contributing value versus expense," he says. "And the team that remains is very tough, very strong, very experienced."

Medient is also slowing down and simplifying construction of a $90 million studio-plex in Effingham County.

The value of Medient’s stock has fallen from around $2 per share a year ago to pennies or less in recent weeks.

But some Medient investors are raising questions about Shapiro’s track record, including an unsuccessful venture in the wine industry.

Ben Rankin of Pooler tells GPB Savannah he sold off most of his stock after Shapiro was announced as the new CEO. He says he invested roughly $14,000 in the company over and estimates he has lost about $7,000.

"I don’t trust him yet so I have to see how things play out," Rankin says. "I wasn’t trusting enough to hold through him being CEO right now."

Rankin says he’s concerned about Shapiro’s track record, including a failed wine venture that ended in bankruptcy in 2007.

Medient is promising a meeting with shareholders in the Savannah area in the next 90 days.