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More Management Mayhem for Marvel

Today's press release announcing management changes at Marvel Entertainment's (NYSE: MVL  ) Marvel Studios is pure art. Read on to see why:

"Additionally, Marvel Studios has solidified its infrastructure with the recent hiring of a number of seasoned, industry executives. Joining Marvel Studios in senior executive positions are: Tim Connors as Executive Vice President, Business Affairs and Operations; Ross Fanger as Executive Vice President, Physical Production; Michael Brown as Senior Vice President, Marketing; Charlie Davis as Senior Vice President, Post Production; Rod Smith as Senior Vice President, Production Finance; Elizabeth Lynch as Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs; and Jean-Claude Boursiquot as Director of IT and Studio Technology. Marvel has also promoted Matt Finick to Senior Vice President, Studio Finance and Corporate Development and named Ryan Potter to Associate Counsel. Both have relocated to Los Angeles from Marvel's New York office. Meanwhile, David Galluzzi, Assistant General Counsel, based in New York, will also be a key member of the Marvel Studios' Business Affairs team. Marvel also announced that Michael Helfant, President and Chief Operating Officer, Marvel Studios, is exiting the company to pursue other opportunities." [Emphasis mine.]

Translation: Who cares if our top guy is leaving? Look at all these lower-level executives we've hired! There's so many of them!

If you're wondering, Helfant, a long-time Hollywood insider, was hired in 2005 to lead operations for Marvel Studios. The move seemed shrewd at the time since Marvel lacked significant film experience in its executive ranks. Helfant, on the other hand, had 17 years in the biz, including a stint at Miramax.

So when Marvel updated analysts about its film business last summer, it was Helfant who laid out the strategy. He was also named an executive producer for both Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. Now, that role falls to new president of production Kevin Feige, as do all of Helfant's other duties.

But why leave now? Helfant was in at the seed stage of what could prove to be a green-field opportunity for Marvel. For its part, The Hollywood Reporter offers an explanation. It claims that Helfant was "forced out."

If that's true, then Helfant and Marvel's higher ups may have disagreed over the direction for the studio. Better to resolve that now, while Marvel's self-financed films are still in the very early stages of production. With filming on Iron Man now under way, and principal photography for The Incredible Hulk to begin within months, the comic book king needs a team it can count on.

Of course, it would have been better to have management just say that, rather than issue a press release that offered more spin than an Olympic ice skater on speed.

More pulse-pounding Foolishness awaits, dear reader:

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers, who is ranked 1,605 out of more than 24,200 in our Motley Fool CAPS investor-intelligence database, owned more than 2,000 comic books but no shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. All of his portfolio holdings can be found at Tim's Fool profile. His thoughts on the movie business, Foolishness, and investing in general may be found in his blog. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is a hero to your portfolio.

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12/31/2009 4:00 PM
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Marvel Entertainme… CAPS Rating: ****