As Annapurna Stumbles, Billionaire Larry Ellison Exerts Control

Oracle founder Larry Ellison is engineering a major reorganization of his daughter Megan Ellison’s struggling Annapurna Pictures, according to several people familiar with the situation. The studio has been hemorrhaging money for years and continues to suffer an exodus of top executives who have either been forced out or who left on their own accord. The latest casualty, film president Chelsea Barnard, was fired this week.

Since launching seven years ago, Annapurna quickly established itself as a favorite production company among auteurs, backing films of critically beloved directors such as Kathryn Bigelow, Paul Thomas Anderson and David O. Russell. It developed a reputation for being immune to the kinds of financial challenges and volatility that many other indie companies have faced. The reason, agents and artists point out, was that it has continued to benefit from the deep pockets of Megan’s billionaire father. Both she and her brother David (who runs Skydance) had the advantage of readily available funds when they each launched their companies.

While Skydance is currently on solid financial footing, Annapurna is another story. The company has racked up hundreds of millions of dollars of losses over the years, due to some significant box office misses, including last month’s release of the John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix Western “The Sisters Brothers,” on which the studio was a participant. The film cost close to $40 million to produce and has only grossed $757,000 to date.

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