He was 69. He’d been ill for a long time, and was hospitalized several days ago, I’m told. A very controversial figure in Hollywood, Nick Counter served as President of the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP) for 27 years, from its formation in 1982 until his retirement in March of this year. Prior to being named AMPTP President, he served as outside legal counsel for the antecedent Association of Motion Picture & Television Producers for 10 years. As AMPTP President, Counter’s primary responsibility was to lead the 80 industry-wide labor negotiations with entertainment industry guilds and unions on behalf of the studios, the broadcast networks, and certain cable networks. In his 27 years as AMPTP President, Counter negotiated more than 300 major guild and union agreements. Warner Bros chief Barry Meyer, considered the lead mogul behind the AMPTP, tonight called Counter “a brilliant negotiator who guided this industry through historic change and never lost his desire to be fair to all involved. We will miss him very much.”
His recently named successor and longtime No. 2, AMPTP President Carol Lombardini, had this to say tonight: “Nick’s passing is a profound loss for the entire entertainment community. We will all remember Nick for his passionate leadership, which was always guided by a resolute sense of fair play and an earnest desire that everyone come out a winner. Nick had a particular proficiency for developing consensus among diverse points of view and he used this skill to great advantage in negotiating hundreds of collective bargaining agreements that led to a sustained era of labor peace. Those of us who worked directly with him have lost a valued colleague and a dear personal friend. Our hearts go out to his family.”
The MPAA pointed out: “He always treated people with dignity and respect in the tough circumstances of these negotiations. He knew that you could be thoughtful and kind even when the issues were difficult, and for that he was respected.”
However, I would be remiss if I did not point out that Counter was not a popular figure among the majority of the Hollywood guild members who saw him as extremely polarizing. Their negotiators regularly complained about Counter’s bargaining methods to force the guilds to negotiate with themselves. Counter wouldn’t budge on the issues, and instead sat, and sat, and waited for the other side to get frustrated and start taking issues off the table. It was a successful albeit torturous and disrespectful tactic, one that did not endear him to the unions who often made accusations that he bargained in bad faith with them. Several unions even filed formal complaints about him with the National Labor Relations Board. Counter handled almost all the negotiations that led to and then settled the 2007/2008 Writers Guild strike. (WGA On Nick Counter’s Death, Briefly) On the picket lines, WGA strikers often made signs caricaturing Counter in unflattering ways. But I was told Counter appeared ill for most of the SAG negotiations and took a backseat to Lombardini. (SAG Statements On Nick Counter’s Death)
In lieu of flowers, the family would prefer donations be made to the Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF) or the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF.)
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