The iconic British animation outfit Aardman Animations announced today that Sean Clarke would succeed David Sproxton as the studio’s managing director. Sproxton, 65, who co-founded the studio with Peter Lord, is stepping down from his role as head of studio after 43 years.

Clarke is a twenty-year veteran of the studio, and had been running the studio’s international rights and marketing department for more than a decade.

Sproxton will continue his connection with the studio by sitting on the Trustee Board as well as consulting on various projects.

Last year, Sproxton and Lord transformed the company into an employee-owned studio, making it one of the largest animation studios in the world majority-owned by its workforce. Clarke’s appointment is part of that transition to an employee-owned operation. “We were determined to find the best possible candidate for the role, which is critical for securing the studio’s future especially in its employee owned incarnation,” Sproxton said in a statement today, adding, “I am delighted that Sean cut through very strong competition to take my place. He has a deep understanding of the creative culture at Aardman – which will ensure continuity – in addition to a very strong, clear and exciting strategy to take the company forward, so it will certainly not be resting on its laurels.”

Sean Clarke joined Aardman as head of consumer products in 1998, after several years as UK licensing director for Disney Consumer Products. In 2008, he became head of rights & brand development, responsible for global brand development and distribution of Aardman and third-party rights across all platforms: film, tv, dvd & digital, merchandising & licensing, and themed attractions and live events. According to today’s press release:

He was instrumental in developing Aardman’s rights team, which now includes 30 people and works across 170 territories worldwide; the launch of the studio’s Youtube channels, which currently exceed 1.2 billion views annually; and the studio diversifying into new areas of immersive storytelling, including its first Shaun the Sheep Land which opened in Sweden in 2015.

“It’s an honor to be taking on the MD [managing director] role and a privilege to be leading Aardman in this exciting new era of employee ownership,” Clarke said in a statement. “The studio’s strength has always been in its visionary creativity and storytelling expertise which, combined, mean that we are able to adapt to new platforms and changes in the way we consume entertainment whilst delivering consistently inspiring, funny and engaging animation. Ensuring that our independent spirit and our unique blend of innovation and integrity remain at the heart of everything we do – while nurturing and supporting sensational new creatives alongside our existing roster of incredible talent – will be a guiding principle.”

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