DHX Media co-founder and longtime president/COO Steven DeNure is set to transition out of his role within the next month as part of a succession plan that includes the promotion of Josh Scherba from EVP of distribution and content to company president. Additional executive reshuffles include the promotion of Anne Loi from EVP of global operations to the newly created position of CCO, and the addition of former DHX exec Aaron Ames as COO.
“I have been working very closely with Josh and Anne for the past 18 years through all of the ups and downs and they are amongst the best people at what they do in the world,” DeNure tells Kidscreen. “But when I renewed my contract a couple of years ago, one of the key things in it was to come up with a succession plan. So we have been working on this for a while. I can say that I’m not retiring. I’ll be taking some time off, but the industry is too much fun and too interesting to simply walk away from.”
For Scherba—who will now helm DHX Media’s content business spanning development, production and distribution, along with the company’s WildBrain YouTube kids network—the industry vet has mixed emotions about the changes.
“Eighteen years working with Steven is a very long time. Decode Entertainment [which DeNure co-founded in 1997] was my first job out of film school, so it will be a transition to not work with him day in and day out,” Scherba says. “That said, I feel like the combination of Aaron and Anne and what I bring to the table will give us a shot of success as we move forward. I am excited about the opportunity in front of us as a management team and as a company. We have a ton of great things we’re working on and it’s an exciting time for the industry.”
As for the other new roles, Ames will be responsible for the company’s overall operations, as well as broadcast channels, DHX Television and licensing agency CPLG. Loi, for her part, will oversee key external partnerships, content production and financing, and business analytics.
Prior to rejoining DHX, Ames held senior roles with Atlas Cold Storage, Centenario Copper, Coretec and TSC Stores. In March 2013, he became DHX Media’s chief integration officer, following the company’s acquisition of Cookie Jar Entertainment, where he was CFO. Loi, meanwhile, was previously upped from SVP of finance and operations to EVP of global operations in February 2017 as part of DHX’s integration of its studio and distribution teams. At that time, Scherba was promoted from SVP of distribution to EVP of distribution and content.
The latest reorg follows the addition of former Nelvana exec Jerry Diaz as VP of distribution last September, Doug Lamb as CFO, and the exit of CEO Dana Landry this past February (executive chair Michael Donavan took over the position). The changes also come as DHX Media’s ongoing strategic review is in its final stages and is expected to conclude by the end of June.
The review was originally announced in October after what the company called “disappointing” financial results for fiscal 2017. Under the review, which is being stewarded by lead director Donald Wright, the company board is evaluating strategic alternatives to maximize shareholder value. Among the options being explored are a partial or whole sale, as well as a merger with another party.
Despite the upheaval, DHX posted a strong Q2 performance this year with revenue hitting US$96.5 million (CAD$122 million.)
DeNure says his departure and succession plan are not related to the current strategic review. “There is no correlation. We did have a discussion about doing this while we were in the middle of the review, but we knew we had a plan and we needed to continue with it,” he says. “Since we’ve announced the succession plan, there has been very positive reaction from colleagues and the industry.”