Veteran media executive Yoko Higuchi-Zitzmann has been named the new CEO of Telepool, the German licensing, production and distribution company owned by Will and Jada Pinkett Smith’s Westbrook.
Her appointment comes after Westbrook took full control of Telepool in December 2021. The Munich-based group is positioned to play a key role in Westbrook’s international expansion strategy. In addition to Telepool, Westbrook has production partnerships with Mo Abudu’s Nigerian production studio EbonyLife and Yasushi Akimoto’s Akimoto Project in Japan. Last January, Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs’ Candle Media paid $60 million for a 10 percent stake in Westbrook.
As CEO, Higuchi-Zitzmann will oversee Telepool’s entire operation from development, co-financing and co-production to sales and distribution. Telepool’s subsidiaries include global sales group Global Screen and home entertainment label EuroVideo. The group is one of Europe’s largest licensors of film and television rights. In addition to the huge German rights library, the company also holds the German distribution rights for Westbrook-produced feature films such as Will Smith starrer King Richard.
Higuchi-Zitzmann joins Telepool from Matthias Schweighöfer’s production outfit Pantaleon Films (Army of thieves), where she was director. She has more than twenty years of management experience at some of Europe’s largest media companies, including Studio Hamburg Production Group and Constantin Film, and as a hands-on producer. Her production credits include the StudioCanal feature My blind date with life and the RTL Television drama Herzog Park.
“Yoko brings more than 25 years of experience driving content production and distribution on a global scale to Telepool,” said Kosaku Yada, CEO of Westbrook. “As CEO of Telepool, Yoko will support the impressive work already done by the Telepool team to bring international content to Germany and local content to the world. She will expand Telepool’s development and production capabilities and further expand Westbrook’s reach in European markets, enabling us to build a leading independent global content studio.”
Next King Richard and the popular Netflix series Cobra KaiWestbrook productions include Peacock’s Belaira dramatic reboot of the 1990s sitcom starring Smith The fresh prince of Bel-Air, and the Emmy award-winning Facebook Watch show Red Table Talk.
“Westbrook is a pioneer in the entertainment industry across all media, and I look forward to playing a role in expanding the company’s global footprint,” Higuchi-Zitzmann said in a statement. “We will strengthen the bridge between the two companies and maximize Westbrook’s presence in the global content market through Telepool’s extensive sales and distribution infrastructure.”
Since its founding in 2019, Westbrook has benefited from the commercial cache of its celebrity owners, but the company took a reputational hit after Will Smith slapped host Chris Rock on stage at the Oscars last year. Smith returned to the limelight late last year with the release of Antoine Fuqua’s Emancipationwhich Smith both produced and starred in.