First, Vulture.com’s Claude Brodesser-Akner inaccurately reported last November that 66-year-old Ron Meyer was about to get fired by the new Comcast owners. Now the Los Angeles Times‘ Ben Fritz inaccurately reported today that Ron Meyer is in negotiations to get hired again. Jeez, can’t you people get this right? Here’s what’s true: there is no bargaining underway, no contract extension on the table, no sticking points, no nothing. Just an “indication” from the Comcast overlords to Ron Meyer that they’d like him to stay. Does he want to stick around? Of course. (The perks alone make the job of mogul worth the headaches…) Will he stick around? Without doubt. But Fritz’s story isn’t correct as to where things stand today. “It’s too early. The LA Times is honestly getting ahead of themselves. Everyone’s afraid to get beat by you,” an insider tells me. (Yikes, so now their mistake is my fault? On what planet?)
Meyer’s current contract continues through December 2012 and he’s been running Universal Studios for 16 years in charge of motion pictures, parks and resorts, and studio operations. Since he arrived in 1995, he’s made it through 4 changes of ownership (Seagram’s, Vivendi, General Electric, and now Comcast) and 9 different bosses (Edgar Bronfman Jr, Frank Biondi, Jean-Marie Messier, Pierre Lescure, Barry Diller, Jean-Rene Fourtou, Bob Wright, Jeff Zucker, and now Steve Burke). And each and every time, Hollywood collectively would turn to him with the same worried expression and say “How are you?” 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.
It’ll be 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. 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 mediocre ones and even great ones when the studio broke its box office record domestically and internationally. 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.
But I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that, silly me, I thought movie-making was a byzantium for the young. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I don’t understand the trend to sign moguls to new contracts for years and years and years to come. They’ll be using walkers on the lot before their deals come due again. About every 10 years, I hope for the beginning of a long-overdue generational shift in Hollywood to finally bring in new blood. Already, most executive suites at the studios will be overrun with over-fifty and over-sixty fogies, all overcompensated and entrenched managers. There’s something unseemly about graying studio bosses making movies for horny 15-year-olds — especially when the mogul oldsters are intolerant of aging in their screenwriters or directors or actors/actresses. The result is that the same people have been deciding which projects get made in this town for decades. The dream factories of legend are suffering severe anemia. Because the movie biz has lost generations worth of younger managers fed up with waiting their turn to get to the top. It’s as if an invisible addendum has been hung from the fabled Hollywood sign: Vacancies. Nice surroundings. Good perks. No one new need apply.