THURSDAY 11:59 PM BREAKING NEWS… 2ND UPDATE WITH MORE EXCLUSIVE DETAILS… FRIDAY 2 AM WRITETHRU: This is a huge surprise: not just that Film Independent czarina Dawn Hudson was chosen as the new CEO by the uber-establishment Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ Board Of Governors. But also that AMPAS insider Ric Robertson, who thought he was a shoo-in for the job to replace retiring executive director Bruce Davis, was passed over and now has to report to someone else again. I’d been hearing for weeks ever since the most recent and wretched Oscars that certain board members wanted an outsider to tranfuse anemic AMPAS with fresh blood in the form of an experienced film executive with new ideas. That’s certainly Hudson “who not only brings tremendous credibility but turned the Spirit Awards from basically nothing to the terrific event it is today,” one insider just told me. “AMPAS almost always promoted from within. But the Board was just so impressed with Dawn.”
So here’s what happened, according to my insiders: Tonight the Board Of Governors had “the” meeting to vote on a new top executive to run the Academy. The Board last Thursday also met in secret and that was supposed to be the deciding confab. But it wasn’t. The reason is that there were two factions on the Board — one wanting to keep the status quo, the other wanting a clean sweep.
“There was some feeling to keep Bruce Davis’s deputy Ric Robertson who assumed the job was his. But that would have been a continuation of the old line, etc. And the Academy Board realized they couldn’t do business as usual anymore,” another insider gives me the scoop. “Tom Sherak, Annette Bening, Jim Brooks, Sid Ganis liked Dawn Hudson a lot. She talked about the creative side of movies, her involvement with filmmakers, the academy’s need to shape an updated identity. And that disasterous [Oscar] show helped her because they realized fresh blood was needed.”
I heard that BAFTA’s Amanda Berry was a major contender at one point along with several other outsiders like Dawn. But not before, I’m told, Jeffrey Katzenberg tried to insert himself into the selection process at the last minute by championing one producer for the job.
Dawn shared the news she was in contention with only a handful of people from whom she extracted promises not to tell me because she worried it would have totally blown her chances. Wrong, Dawn. I would have helped you get the job sooner because I could have thrown cold water on the only ding against you: that some Board members worried you knew a few but not many of the so-called “Hollywood movers and shakers” — like the major studio moguls and major movie players versus just Fox Searchlight, Sony Pictures Classics, indie producers, etc.
Needless to say, throughout the process, rumor and speculation were at a fevered pitch among the AMPAS staff, many of whom kept emailing me about what they considered to be the “inappropriate” and “dysfunctional” ways that the Academy was being managed. I, in turn, kept asking Board members to confirm or deny the info, and some started to investigate with the purpose of separating fact from fiction. I was waiting to hear their replies but then came today’s announcement.
AMPAS obviously decided that the Academy needed an intervention. Insiders thought Robertson would quit instead of take the COO post but he didn’t. In my opinion, the arrogant and autocratic Ric personifies everything that’s wrong with the Academy and the Oscars telecast and should have been shown the door — even before he demonstrated such poor judgment and yanked Deadline’s press credential to cover February’s Academy Awards because I posted exclusive spoilers: the entire rundown pre-show. Robertson threw a hissy fit and then successfully lobbied Academy President Tom Sherak to give him the OK to ban Deadline from the Oscars press room.
I know many AMPAS staff members were hoping Robertson would get the boot because a lot of them detest him for very legitimate reasons: like the very subjective promotions, selective pay increases, and unprofessional personal relationships between co-workers going on inside that organization. It also didn’t help that AMPAS staff members were so unhappy they were beginning to take the first steps to unionize by exploring how to join up with IATSE. (And how embarrassing would that have been to the Hollywood bigwigs) Maybe the AMPAS staff will just be content now to watch Ric’s daily humiliation?
I’ve been very critical of the Academy, its Board Of Governors, and Tom Sherak for some time now. (I almost called for Sherak’s resignation after this latest Oscars because of the dumb-ass decisions he made for it. Then held off.) But bringing in outsider Dawn Hudson is the first thing they’ve done right in a long while.
Here’s the official statement:
BEVERY HILLS – The Board of Governors of the Motion Picture Academy voted on Thursday to establish a new executive structure for the organization, replacing retiring executive director Bruce Davis with former Film Independent head Dawn Hudson and long-time Academy executive Ric Robertson, who will become the organization’s CEO and COO respectively. Robertson will report to Hudson in the new leadership tandem.
Hudson has spent 20 years at the helm of Film Independent, which grew from a small non-profit into a nationally recognized arts institution under her leadership. Film Independent’s two signature programs are the 26-year-old Independent Spirit Awards and the Los Angeles Film Festival, held annually in June.
“The Academy is the gold standard for the world’s most influential art form, and I am humbled by what the Board of Governors, the Academy members, and the staff have accomplished under Bruce Davis’s leadership.” said Hudson. “I am thrilled to have this opportunity to work with Ric, and to carry the Academy’s mission forward into the future.”
Robertson joined the Academy in 1981 following a short stint with the Los Angeles International Film Exposition (FILMEX), and became the organization’s second-in-command in 1989, when he was appointed Executive Administrator. In that position he has overseen the Academy’s public programming, its library and film archive as well as its public relations, marketing, legal affairs, and numerous awards-related events and activities.
“Having Bruce as a mentor has been tremendously valuable to me,” said Robertson. “It will serve me well as I move into this new management position and partnership with Dawn, as we help to write the Academy’s next chapter.”
Academy president Tom Sherak said that the new structure for the Academy’s executive staff had occurred to the officers of the organization as they began seriously considering the succession issue. “We’re a different organization than we used to be,” Sherak said, “with a range of activities that couldn’t have been conceived of when the present structure came into place. Now, with the leadership team of Dawn as our CEO and Ric as our COO, we have the ideal combination of new vision and institutional continuity to move us forward.”
Following a planned bylaw revision, already in the works, Hudson and Robertson will assume their new positions on June 1.