After 30 years service in senior leadership roles, Warner Bros. president and managing director – UK, Ireland and Spain, Josh Berger has called it quits.
The Warner Bros. veteran was also the president of Harry Potter Global Franchise Development has decided to leave the company. He will leave the company in December and will remain as an advisor to the senior management till mid-2021 for the Harry Potter franchise as an executive producer on the third instalment of the Fantastic Beasts film series and upcoming BBC documentary, Fantastic Beasts: A Natural History, among other projects.
Commenting on Berger’s leaving, Gerhard Zeiler, WarnerMedia International head said: “Josh is one of the most respected people in the industry. He has been integral to the ongoing success of our Warner Bros. businesses in the UK, Ireland and Spain, and has been an incredible steward to the Harry Potter franchise. He was also the first Warner Bros. country manager, pioneering the model which shapes the international organization today. It is fair to say that thanks to his leadership and energy our company is for sure better off today. I respect his desire to take on new challenges and, along with all of our colleagues across the company, wish him the very best.”
In his latest role, Berger was responsible for overseeing Warner Bros.’ business activities in the three territories (UK, Ireland and Spain), and as president of Harry Potter Global Franchise Development, he led Warner Bros.’ expanded creative partnership with J.K. Rowling, overseeing one of the entertainment industry’s most successful global franchises.
He was instrumental in the expansion of the company’s activities across film, TV, and videogames, and during that time, he played a relevant part in over 350 theatrical releases in these regions.
“There’s nothing more amazing than seeing stories being brought to life on screen. Over the last 31 years at Warner Bros., I’ve been lucky to see every part of that process in action. I’ve seen ideas being formed and deals being struck, magic being made in front of the camera and behind it, and stories being told from – and sent to – all corners of the earth. I’m so grateful to all my colleagues for making this place feel like home for so long and wish them all the best for the future,” added Berger.
In 2012, Berger was a key person in the ground-breaking acquisition of Leavesden Studios, a £100 million investment (at the time) which was the first studio of its kind to be built in the UK in 70 years when it opened, and the only studio facility outside of the US to be owned and operated by a Hollywood studio. Leavesden Studios is also the home of the award-winning and hugely successful tourist attraction Warner Bros. Studio London – The Making of Harry Potter.
Recognising the need to support underrepresented groups and create development opportunities in the creative industries, in 2013 Berger set up the multi-award-winning Warner Bros. Creative Talent programme to develop diverse, emerging talent from all backgrounds, identifying and incubating a pipeline for the UK and Ireland’s creative industries, in film, TV, games and theatre.
Berger began his Warner Bros. career in 1986, joining as an intern in the international TV arm of Lorimar-Telepictures (which was bought by Warner Bros. in 1989). After working in a number of leadership roles in Paris and Madrid, Berger relocated to the UK 24 years ago to oversee all TV activities for EMEA. There he made a number of landmark deals with all forms of TV media, in addition to equity investments and co-productions.
In 2002, he became the company’s first country manager (UK and Ireland), setting the template for a management model which integrates the disparate divisions in a territory under one leader and a single corporate structure. The model was an early demonstration of the value of a ‘one company’ approach and was subsequently rolled out to seven key territories.
Berger added management of Spain to his responsibilities in 2009, and has overseen the transformation of the Spain team into a hub for world-class Spanish-language productions, including successful theatrical releases as Lo Imposible, Palmeras en la Nieve, and Villaviciosa de al lado.
Since 2014, Berger has also managed the expansion of the Harry Potter global franchise effort, working closely with partners inside and outside the company on numerous initiatives, including the Fantastic Beasts film series; the Harry Potter Studio Tour; Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions at Universal Studios in Florida, Hollywood, Japan, and Beijing; video game label Portkey Games; the stage-play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child; and the franchise’s direct-to-consumer platform, the Harry Potter Fan Club.
Josh and the franchise team pioneered a best-in-class, cross-divisional approach to franchise development that helped to turn Harry Potter into a 360-degree, flywheel franchise centred around its fans, which will enable it to expand and develop over many years to come.
In addition to his Warner Bros. responsibilities, Berger was also appointed as the British Film Institute chairman in 2016, having been a BFI Governor since 2011. In this role, Josh has promoted the cultural and economic value of the creative industries, and has been instrumental in championing the push for greater diversity in the screen industries in the UK, including the development and promotion of the BFI Diversity Standards to encourage equality of opportunity and address underrepresentation in the screen industries.
He is also a Board Member of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA); Chairman Emeritus of Chickenshed Theatre Trust; a Member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), and the British Screen Advisory Council; and a Director of the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
In 2012, Berger was appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE), one of the highest-ranking honours bestowed by the Queen, for his outstanding services to the UK’s creative industries.