CAA president Ron Meyer, one of the five men who founded the talent agency in 1975, will depart to become president and chief operating officer of MCA Inc., replacing Sid Sheinberg who has been in the post for 22 years, sources said Sunday.
A joint announcement from MCA and CAA is expected today.
The appointment will send shock waves through the two Hollywood powerhouses that will resonate for months to come. Meyer’s departure also is expected to trigger a major power struggle at CAA.
Meyer is said to be taking the reins from Sheinberg as he segues into his new film and television production company after 36 years at MCA.
All divisions are expected to report to Meyer, who will assume control immediately. MCA Motion Picture Group chairman Tom Pollock probably will stay at MCA, but in a sharply redefined capacity. One source close to MCA parent Seagram Co. CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. said that Pollock’s new position will be as a key adviser on strategy and corporate planning.
Meyer had been rumored to be making the move to MCA with CAA topper Michael Ovitz. However, Ovitz and Bronfman could not reach an agreement (Daily Variety, June 6, 1995). Insiders said talks began immediately after that with Meyer, second in command at CAA.
Inchoosing Meyer for the job, Seagram had to buy out his ownership of CAA, believed to have been between 25% and 33%.
The longtime agent was perceived to be the glue that held the talent side of CAA together. He also acted as peacemaker for internal disputes within the agency. Some agents fear that Meyer’s departure might destabilize the agency.
“This is a big ego blow to Ovitz,” one source at CAA said. “Ronnie is the key link to talent (here).” Another top CAA agent said, “With Ronnie gone there are a lot of points to spread around,” meaning that several agents will be vying for an ownership stake in the agency, which up until now has been held by Ovitz, Meyer and Bill Haber.
The move to the top of MCA Inc. is quite an achievement for Meyer, who never graduated high school and worked his way up from gofer to TV agent to entrepreneur. Since founding CAA in 1975, he has become one of the most powerful agents in the industry with a client base including Michael Douglas and Sylvester Stallone.
Ironically, the last time an agent made the jump to head an entertainment company was when Lew Wasserman took over MCA in the late 1960s. At that time the Justice Dept. — citing antitrust violations — forced MCA to choose between owning a talent agency or a film and television production entity.
None of the parties involved were available for comment. A spokesman from Seagram said the company has a policy of not commenting on speculation or rumor.