csaAvi Arad is stepping down as Chairman and CEO of Marvel Studios. He will stay on as Creative Advisor for Marvel through the remainder of 2006, but will be turning his attention to independently producing films through his Avi Arad Productions. He’ll remain involved in some current productions, such as Spider-Man 3, Iron Man and Hulk 2, and he’ll still be producing Marvel films in the future.

"I have helped to build Marvel into a very special company, and on the heels of the tremendous success of ‘X-Men: The Last Stand,’ I felt like it was the right time for me to move away from the day to day corporate responsibilities in order to focus on what I love best – creating and producing. I am leaving behind a great team to run the studio, and I expect to remain actively involved in the development and production of many Marvel films in the years to come," said Arad in a press release.

Michael Helfant, currently President and COO of Marvel Studios (seriously, COO is the best title ever. It’s like he’s a big fucking pigeon) and Kevin Feige, Marvel Studio’s President of Production, will be stepping up to the plate to take over Avi’s duties. I don’t know a lot about Helfant, but when I interviewed Zak Penn and Simon Kinberg for X-Men: The Last Stand, they vouched for Feige’s geek cred.

And geek cred is important – a lot of people had problems with Avi and his Stanley Lieber-esque hucksterism, but the guy knew his Marvel Comics. I had a chance to sit down with him one on one at Comic Con last summer and I can tell you that the guy is full of energy and knowledge, and I think Marvel’s impressive track record of films that stay close to the original character concepts and themes (minus Daredevil) comes from that.

I don’t know enough about the fiscal and political aspects of Marvel Studios to comment on why Avi might be leaving his position now, so I’ll leave that to you guys.