Misher expected to head production

Universal Studios confirmed Thursday that Stacey Snider and Brian C. Mulligan have been upped to co-chairmen of Universal Pictures.

The announcement had been expected (Daily Variety, May 24) although until Thursday it was unclear how the co-chairs’ duties would be divided.

Snider will oversee production, marketing and domestic distribution while Mulligan will be responsible for finance, business affairs, legal, human resources, administration, international operations and homevideo.

The duo will both hold greenlighting authority, although Universal Studios’ president and chief operating officer Ron Meyer will have final say on what goes before the cameras.

“Brian and Stacey are an outstanding team with a strong combination of creative and business instincts,” said Meyer, who made the announcement Thursday. “The strength of our current product slate and business strategies is a direct result of their efforts and talent. We look forward to Universal Pictures’ continued success under their combined leadership.”

It’s expected that co-president of production Kevin Misher will be named sole head of production. Misher was upped to co-president last November, serving alongside Snider, who has been president of production since November 1998.

Snider joined U in 1996, when she and former co-president of production Marc Platt left TriStar Pictures to run production at Universal.

Movie credits

During her tenure at Universal, Snider has overseen “The Mummy,” “Life,” “Patch Adams,” “One True Thing,” “Out of Sight” and “October Sky.”

With the promotion, Snider solidifies her position as one of the most powerful women in Hollywood, joining Paramount Motion Picture Group’s Sherry Lansing as the only female chairs of major studios.

Snider’s promotion received ringing endorsements from filmmakers including Steven Spielberg and Brian Grazer.

“I give credit to Edgar Bronfman for doing this,” Spielberg told Daily Variety. “This is the smartest thing that I’ve seen a studio do to its production unit for several years. Stacey is very smart and great with talent relations and I think she’s going to put Universal back up where its once was.”

Grazer, who is partnered with Ron Howard in U-based Imagine Entertainment, called Snider’s promotion “well-deserved. She’s always had insightful notes, exhibited an inspired mind and she’s fiscally responsible.”

Snider and Mulligan are said to be mulling several changes in U’s operating structure, including the division of duties once handled by former Universal Pictures president Chris McGurk, who left in April to become vice chairman of MGM. When he worked at Universal, McGurk oversaw UIP on behalf of the studio, Universal Pictures Intl. and U’s various co-financing pacts.

While several candidates emerged to fill McGurk’s former post, the promotion of Mulligan to co-chair nixes the position.

London-based Stuart Till has been in charge of UPI since the foreign distribution arm was created following Seagram’s decision to keep Polygram’s international distribution operations.

Silver’s chair

The chairmanship was last held by Casey Silver, who ankled in December but is expected to launch his production shingle at the studio this fall. After Silver’s departure, Meyer assumed much of the day-to-day running of the studio, functions he can now relinquish to Snider and Mulligan.

However, Meyer told Daily Variety that he will continue to be active in all studio operations, as well as continuing to supervise U’s television and theme park operations.

“Both of them have tremendous individual skills,” Meyer said. “Stacey has great creative instincts and Brian has great business acumen, traits I don’t think you necessarily find in one person.”

Soon after Silver’s departure, Mulligan, an eight-year Universal veteran, was upped to executive vice president of operations and finance. Before that promotion, Mulligan was senior VP of corporate development and strategic planning.

In his exec posts at U, Mulligan has been involved in negotiating the studio’s $1.1 billion film financing agreement with Citibank, and most recently helped structure a co-production agreement with MGM that stemmed from McGurk’s exit. Mulligan also was involved in the acquisition of USA Networks and the subsequent merger of U’s television assets with Barry Diller’s USA Networks.

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