Exex expand, will o'see business development, strategic planning

And on the second day, Vivendi Universal created new posts at Universal Pictures, and it was good for Marc Shmuger and Rick Finkelstein.

Shmuger, who’s been marketing prexy, becomes vice chairman of the film unit; Finkelstein, previously operations president, receives the added title of chief operating officer. Separately, Doug Morris reupped for another five years running Vivendi’s music group.

“My decision to promote and increase the responsibilities of both Marc and Rick recognizes their unparalleled gifts as managers and also gives us a wonderful opportunity to capitalize on the powerful momentum we are experiencing at Universal Pictures,” said Stacey Snider, chairman of the film unit that, at $1 billion-plus, will see its best domestic-grossing year ever.

Tuesday’s moves follow by a day the debut of stock market trading in Vivendi Universal, after French-based Vivendi closed on its $40 billion acquisition of U parent Seagram. Also Monday, Vivendi U announced the departure of Seagram exec VP and chief financial officer Brian Mulligan.

Meanwhile, Shmuger’s promotion begs the question of who will fill his big marketing shoes, as the well-respected exec assumes a broader role involving oversight of activities throughout Universal Pictures. Shmuger praised his current marketing troops, but it’s believed an outside exec will be brought in as marketing prexy.

“The breadth of my new responsibilities will require putting into place a system to handle the day-to-day operations of marketing,” Shmuger said. “But whatever changes are made, we are anxious to preserve this extraordinary marketing team that we have.”

A top marketing appointment is expected soon, perhaps within days. It’s believed negotiations are well-advanced, and New Wave Entertainment principal Peter Adee could be up for the post.

New Wave makes movie trailers and offers a range of marketing services including movie graphics. Adee could not be reached for comment.

Shmuger will oversee a range of operations, including Internet activities as well as core areas such as international film marketing and distribution. Current international film marketing and distrib prexy Nadia Bronson will report to Shmuger, though domestic distrib topper Nikki Rocco will continue to report to Snider.

A well-placed source said Bronson will mull the new structure for a few weeks before deciding her next professional step after Jan. 1, but Bronson declined comment on the matter.

Shmuger, who joined U in 1998 after seven years at Sony Pictures Entertainment and Columbia Pictures, will share responsibility with Finkelstein for directing business development and strategic planning. Both execs report to Snider.

Finkelstein’s added title extends his responsibilities in areas including business and legal affairs, strategic planning and homevideo. He will also oversee Universal’s interest in United Intl. Pictures, United Cinemas Intl. and Cinema Intl. Corp. He joined U from Polygram, which was acquired by the studio last year.

“I’ll now be more focused in coordinating the day-to-day operations of the company,” Finkelstein said.

He is in Manchester, England, today to attend a UCI board meeting. An international exhibitor with 1,000 screens in Europe, Brazil and Japan, UCI is co-owned by U and Paramount. Finkelstein then travels to Amsterdam for a similar year-end meeting with directors of UIP, an international distribution co-op of the same two studios.

Efforts appreciated

Snider in particular lauded Finkelstein’s efforts to achieve long-term contract extensions with U production partners Imagine Entertainment and Jersey Films earlier this year.

“Stacey has further solidified the studio’s winning team with (both) promotions,” Imagine co-topper Brian Grazer observed.

Marc Abraham, president of U production partner Beacon Pictures, said he’s known Shmuger since Beacon was set up at Columbia during the exec’s years there.

“The best thing about Marc is that he’s really smart,” Abraham said. “He has an insatiable hunger for knowledge,” he added.

“I think he’s a genius,” enthused Jay Roach, helmer on U’s B.O. smash “Meet the Parents.”

“We’re jpelase that there’s a senior management team that covers the bases and is filmmaker-friendly,” Jersey co-chairman Michael Shamberg said.

“It’s not just about the bottom line but about supporting the creation of good movies and also supporting them after they are released,” added Jersey co-chairman Stacey Sher.

Over at Universal Music Group, Morris’ contract renewal as chairman and CEO — titles he first attained in 1995 — secures his continued reign atop the world’s biggest music company. A highlight of his tenure to date was the group’s 1998 acquisition of huge additional music assets from former European-based conglom Polygram.

“Doug has been, without a doubt, the best music executive in the business,” Vivendi U vice chairman Edgar Bronfman Jr. said. “He has re-energized Universal Music Group by attracting and recruiting some of the music industry’s most talented artists and executives.”

U’s roster of musical artists include pop heavyweights Elton John and U2.

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