With the sale of Maker Studios to The Walt Disney Company now a done deal, the company has announced that Lisa and Ben Donovan, the last remaining founders, have left the company according to a report by Recode. The Donovan siblings founded Maker Studios alongside former CEO Danny Zappin, who is currently engaged in litigation against the company. Zappin claims that Maker management, including the Donovans, conspired to dilute his stake in the company and push him out of his leadership position.
The Donovan siblings sat on Maker’s board of directors until May when the Disney deal was finalized but had no formal role within the company. Maker Studios announced the departure earlier this week via an internal memo. The company also issued a public statement praising the Donovans’ work with Maker. “Lisa and Ben have left the company. They will always be an important part of the Maker family. We are forever grateful for their pioneering vision in founding the company five years ago that has since become the world’s leading provider of online video content for millennials.”
With the departure of the Donovans from Maker, no members of the founding team are now directly involved in the company’s operations. In possibly related news, the Disney-run Maker Studios has been restocking its executive talent pool with hires from AOL and Yahoo. The company recently tapped Gabriel Lewis, former head of AOL Originals and AOL Digital Studios, to act as vice president of development and strategy. New Maker EVP of programming Bonnie Pan was formerly head of global programming and audience development at Yahoo. Both will report to Erin McPherson, Maker’s chief content officer and herself a former Yahoo executive.
As of yet, there’s no word on what Donovan’s next move will be, although both are expected to receive substantial compensation as a result of Maker’s sale to Disney. The entire deal was worth an estimated $500 million, but that price could rise as high as $950 million with performance-based incentives in the first year. It should also be noted that Maker founder Danny Zappin, who is currently engaged in legal action against the company, including the Donovans, is also a principal investor in New Media Rockstars.
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