I don’t know if there’ll be a formal announcement of this, but Ron Meyer has signed a new contract to continue as President and Chief Operating Officer of Universal Studios. He will remain with the company at least 4 1/2 more years through 2015 and he will continue to report to Steve Burke, chief of NBCUniversal. And so concludes the recent saga of whether Meyer would stay atop the studio after the recent sale to Comcast. First came the inaccurate reports last November that the 66-year-old Meyer was about to get fired by the new owners. Then came more inaccurate reports in May that Meyer was in negotiations to get hired again. Actually, the longest-serving Hollywood mogul began bargaining shortly after that since the perks alone made the job worth the headaches, and Comcast wanted him to stick around.
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 four changes of ownership (Seagram’s, Vivendi, General Electric, and now Comcast) and nine 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 Aug. 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. Movie mogul? Even better.
Meanwhile, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I continue to 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-50 and over-60 fogies, all overcompensated and entrenched managers. The movie biz has lost generations worth of younger managers fed up with waiting their turn to get to the top.