Since Ron Meyer arrived at Universal Studios as President/COO in 1995, he’s made it through three changes of ownership (Seagram’s, Vivendi, General Electric) and eight different bosses (Edgar Bronfman Jr, Frank Biondi, Jean-Marie Messier, Pierre Lescure, Barry Diller, Jean-Rene Fourtou, Bob Wright, and now Jeff Zucker.). And each and every time, Hollywood collectively would turn to him with the same worried expression and say “How are you?” (That’s code for “there but for the grace of god go I.”) And each and every time, Meyer would reply, “I’m still here.” Once, entertainment super-lawyer Bruce Ramer asked Ron to speak to an industry luncheon: of course, on the topic of surviving. It’s not only a miracle — a word Meyer himself uses from time to time, it’s certainly a footnote in the history books of showbiz. “Fear of failure has taken me a long way,” Meyer once told me on the record. So it is with a mixture of shock and awe that I report Meyer has signed a new five-year contract with NBC Universal. This means he’ll remain at the helm of Universal Studios “through at least 2012” and become one of film industry’s longest serving studio heads. He’s still in charge of motion pictures, parks and resorts, and studio operations — basically, the same job he’s had since August 1, 1995, when Edgar Bronfman Jr. lured him from the presidency and his partnership of Creative Artists Agency, the tenpercentery he co-founded in 1975. An official announcement will be made tomorrow by Meyer’s boss, NBC Universal’s president/CEO Jeff Zucker.
Meyer has often said that, when his parents escaped from Nazi Germany, one of the things that helped his family assimilate to their adopted home was their love of movies and movie stars. Given that, little wonder he weathers better than many moguls the ups and downs of the film business. He’s seen horrible years at Universal as well as ones when the studio broke its box office record domestically and internationally for the first time in its 87-year history. Once upon a time, the ex-marine repaired Xerox machines for a living. His father’s greatest hope was that Ron could one day be a Xerox salesman. Fast forward: Meyer first heard about the GE/NBC/Universal deal early one morning on his way to his Universal City office from his Malibu home. Soon after, he spent three hours getting acquainted with Zucker and told me later, “I actually liked him. I was surprised.” Fast forward: at this year’s Oscar party circuit, Meyer and Zucker hung out together like old pals. Again, I asked Meyer what he thought of his newly named boss: “He’s both supportive of our business and the creative process, and he leaves us alone. What more can I ask?”