Skydance Media—the Santa Monica-based independent studio behind such projects as the Charlize Theron superhero flick, The Old Guard, and the long-gestating theatrical Top Gun: Maverick—is expanding into sports entertainment. Tapped to spearhead the launch of the new Skydance Sports division is longtime Mandalay Sports Media exec Jon Weinbach, who produced the 2020 ESPN Michael Jordan miniseries, The Last Dance.
Weinbach joins Skydance as president of the fledgling sports unit. He reports to Skydance president and COO Jesse Sisgold.
A former staff reporter at The Wall Street Journal—among his more memorable pieces was a 2007 deconstruction of Ohio State’s then-$109.4 million sports budget—Weinbach began directing and producing sports documentaries shortly after leaving the newspaper business. Among some of the notable docs Weinbach produced during his pre-Mandalay sojourn include The Other Dream Team, a film about the 1992 Lithuanian national team, and Sole Man, a portrait of the legendary sports-marketing whiz Sonny Vaccaro, which bowed on ESPN as part of its 30 for 30 series.
In 2012, Weinbach went on to oversee development and production of all content at Mandalay, where in addition to last summer’s mammoth MJ hit, he brought to life a range of projects for such outlets as CBS, Fox Sports, ESPN, HBO, Turner Sports and Vice Media. Over the course of his career, Weinbach has won seven Emmy awards.
“This is a dream opportunity to create a global, independent sports studio,” said Weinbach, in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. “I’m incredibly grateful to [Skydance CEO and founder] David [Ellison], Jesse and the entire Skydance leadership team for their belief and efforts, and I can’t wait to create memorable projects across all formats.”
In addition to developing its proprietary consumer-facing content, Skydance Sports also aims to collaborate with leagues and individual teams looking to generate their own video offerings across TV, streaming and various new-media platforms.
Citing Weinbach’s “unmatched critical and creative sensibility about the world of sports,” Ellison said he believes Skydance now has “the right team in place to execute” its ambitions.
Skydance backers include RedBird Capital Partners and CJ Entertainment, the studio behind the 2019 Oscar-winning film Parasite. In February 2020, Skydance raised $275 million in funding from the two firms, lifting its value to an estimated $2.3 billion. RedBird’s investments include Fenway Sports Group (MLB’s Boston Red Sox and Liverpool FC of the Premier League), the YES Network and the XFL.