Ric Robertson Taking Paid Summer Hiatus From Movie Academy In Financial Crunch

EXCLUSIVE: Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences COO Ric Robertson is  taking what’s being internally Ric Robertson paid leave AMPAScalled a “sabbatical” from June through August. I have learned this is an unusual paid leave even though the Academy is complaining about a financial crunch. Normally, its staff are restricted to 30 days of unpaid leave (and then only with approval). “He has worked here for 31 years. Doesn’t he deserve it?” an insider told me. “He didn’t tell us what he’ll do. Maybe work on his golf game.” Robertson’s upcoming sabbatical has prompted AMPAS staff to wonder whether he will be pushed out and/or look for another job. In April 2011, he was passed over for Bruce Davis’ executive directorship and now reports to AMPAS CEO Dawn Hudson, who was brought in over him. Insiders tell me that Robertson was primarily responsible for this year’s online voting debacle, which Hudson dumped in his lap when the Academy finally decided to implement Oscar balloting electronically — something Robertson and Davis resisted for prior years. (Grumbles one insider: “Dawn gives him anything messy that she doesn’t want to deal with or anything that means a lot of real work or anything that has a potential for failure, like the electronic voting.”)In November, the Academy had to extend its registration period after member complaints. Then AMPAS had to back down and send an old-fashioned paper ballot to any member who had paid their dues but hadn’t registered for online voting. (The Academy initially required a one-time registration for online or paper ballots.) Then, because of elaborate security steps necessary to avoid hackers, a large and very vocal group of AMPAS members complained that they were locked out of the system and had to waste 2-3 days trying to vote online. The Academy sent members a detailed but overly complex E Voter Guide that proved more confusing than helpful. Sources have been predicting for some time that Robertson would leave AMPAS, and yet he has stayed. He joined the Academy in 1981 and became the organization’s second-in-command in 1989 when he was appointed Executive Administrator. In that position he oversaw the Academy’s public programming, library and film archive as well as its public relations, marketing, legal affairs, and numerous awards-related events and activities. One reason he was passed over for the top job was because 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?) I’d be unfair not to point out that Robertson has his admirers. But I’m not — not since he yanked Deadline’s press credential to cover the 2011 Academy Awards because I posted exclusive spoilers. (He threw a hissy fit and successfully lobbied then-Academy President Tom Sherak to ban Deadline from the Oscars press room.)

  1. Yanking media credentials is just another indication of what we in the media/journo world suspect anyway: AMPAS is creatively bankrupt. The last good idea died in the parking lot with Gil Cates, or somewhere around the last time a press release raised a pulse. Dawn Hudson inherited a brokendown golden boys club, so no disrespect to her. Two things you can’t ask for in life: the moon, and respect. Oscar’s gotta get off the golden calf and back in the saddle of better ideas with a revamped floor show of the dead over there before Academy’s 2014.

  2. Ric Robertson has always been and continues to be a class act both in and outside of the Academy. After all these years of loyal service to AMPAS, he certainly deserves a break. How about we recognize his continued service and cut him some slack. He more than deserves the member’s support and if he wants to take the summer off, so be it. Get over it and thank God you’re not in Oklahoma right now .

  3. How about all the employees with long time service whom have had their salaries capped and pension slashed due to the museum crushing all other AMPAS financial goals? What about their service? What about Dawn wanting to turn us into a museum souvenir shop? Dorsn’t anyone see that as a problem?

    1. Well said. The Academy has lost whatever soul it had, along with the staffers who made it special. it’s just a corporation now, controlled by greed and ambition, but no heart.

  4. “…not since he yanked Deadline’s press credential to cover the 2011 Academy Awards because I posted exclusive spoilers.” Speechless. Think about this sentence Nikki. Just because you’re Deadline, doesn’t mean you get a free pass at breaking the rules. Get over it. Rules are rules, and I think it’s very admirable that they don’t bend them for anyone. Acts like these just remind us how powerful this organization is. They don’t need to conform to anyone- they’re the ACADEMY AWARDS.
    And… Ric needs a well deserved break. Good for him. He hasn’t had a day off in 30 years.

  5. Robertson’s fatal flaw is his weakness, which allowed him to be passed over for the job he was virtually promised, and subservient to a lightweight who’s earned the respect of no one. But don’t feel sorry for either of these ninnies; the sweeping cuts to staffers’ pay and pensions went toward their huge salary increases. (Ric’s salary doubled on the day the cuts were announced).

  6. I’m told by my friend on staff whose been there awhile that it’s even worse for them on this leave thing – before they can even beg for a unpaid leave they have to use up all their vacation and sick days first. These are actual film scholars, not golf-players. I never thought the Academy treated their employees this way.

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