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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 December 2007, 13:29 GMT
Knut mastermind leaves Berlin Zoo
Paris Hilton (left) and a stuffed toy of Knut the polar bear
Knut has become a celebrity phenomenon
The man credited with turning polar bear cub Knut into a global brand has left his job at Berlin Zoo.

The zoo decided on Monday not to extend Gerald Uhlich's contract beyond 2007, but he has already cleared his desk, German newspapers reported.

Former finance director Mr Uhlich told reporters he had reached an "amicable" agreement to leave early.

However, media reports said he left over a dispute with colleagues over how the zoo should be run.

It comes weeks after Knut celebrated his first birthday, amid much media coverage.

'Positive image'

It is thought that Mr Uhlich's co-director at the zoo, Bernhard Blaszkiewitz, had become increasingly uneasy at the effect Knut's popularity was having on the zoo.

Mr Blaszkiewitz was quoted earlier this year as saying that the zoo was turning into an amusement park.

File photograph of Knut the polar bear
The bear cub was rejected at birth by his mother

Mr Uhlich told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur news agency that he was not ashamed of the work he had done at the zoo.

"The zoo has become profitable and it has gained a very positive image in Germany and across the world," he said.

Mr Uhlich is said to be responsible for boosting the zoo's revenues during his tenure, licensing Knut's image for use on t-shirts, toys posters and even sweets.

Visitor numbers have soared since the birth of the bear, who has his own blog and has appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine.

More than a million people visited the zoo to watch Knut frolic with keeper Thomas Doerflein in twice-daily shows, until the bear grew too big.



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