A Tory-appointed board member has become the acting chief executive officer and film commissioner of Manitoba Film and Music (MFM).
Rachel Rusen Margolis took over the role June 17, when Carole Vivier retired after 26 years at the helm of the statutory corporation that develops and promotes film, television, video and music projects in the province.
Margolis, an entertainment lawyer and former partner with MLT Aikins LLP in Winnipeg, confirmed she left her job at the firm to take on the six-month MFM contract.
In an interview Tuesday, Margolis said she was "thrilled" for the new challenge.
"Right now, it’s an acting position. I’m excited and thrilled to take that on with all the positive things that are happening in the industry, and I’m humbled and honoured that the board felt confident that I was the right person to take that on," she said, adding that the decision to appoint her was made unanimously by the MFM board.
"We have over $269 million in production in Manitoba last year, and I think we’re poised to pierce the ceiling on that."
Margolis said Vivier’s pending retirement was talked about worldwide since last August, thanks to her prominence in the entertainment industry.
It’s unclear how many people were considered for the acting CEO role, though board chairman Dan Donahue said other names came up before Margolis’ appointment. Margolis said she recused herself from the board after expressing interest.
Vivier couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday, nor did any other board members return calls seeking comment.
Sport, Culture and Heritage Minister Cathy Cox issued a prepared statement congratulating the acting CEO.
"I wish Rachel Margolis the best of luck in her new role leading MFM, and feel confident her background both in the legal side of the entertainment industry and with numerous boards will serve her well in that capacity," Cox said.
A spokesman for Cox noted Margolis was appointed at the MFM board’s discretion, and said the move didn’t require ministerial approval.
In a Tuesday interview, Donahue acknowledged MFM didn’t cast a wide net with its search for a new CEO, partly because it’s in the midst of a provincial mandate review by the sport, culture and heritage department announced in December.
Vivier went public with her retirement plans in August 2018. Donahue described how the six-person board, consisting mostly of new members appointed in July 2018, was left trying to find her successor.
"I think there has been sort of this perception that somehow there wasn’t a process followed, with regards to how Rachel was hired — but it was a very vigorous process and it was extremely transparent," Donahue said.
"The board really struggled with this because there hadn’t been a succession plan put in place. So I, as the chair, was tasked with having to actually create one from the ground floor up, and that did create some challenges for us in terms of the length of time it took."
The MFM board decided to go with an interim CEO, in case the corporation’s mandate changed pending the provincial review, he said.
"It’s been a bit of a delicate balancing act here," Donahue said. "We didn’t feel that going through a huge search process, an international or national search for an interim CEO, would have been a prudent expenditure of money, knowing full well that we would have to be engaged in that in six months’ time.
"And there are always going to be detractors and those who are not happy with the way things have played out, and it doesn’t matter what you do."
Donahue said a third-party firm has been hired to conduct a formal search for a new CEO, once the provincial MFM review is over.
Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.
Updated on Wednesday, July 17, 2019 at 1:38 PM CDT: Name fixed.