CEO’s off & running

SAG's Pisano deputizes 4 for national duties

HOLLYWOOD — Setting a take-charge tone three weeks into the job, CEO and national exec director Robert Pisano placed his stamp Monday on the Screen Actors Guild by announcing a major reorg of top execs.

“This structure provides clear lines of responsibility and accountability for each division of our operations,” said Pisano, who tapped four execs as deputy national exec directors. “Based on our mission of providing the most cost-effective and efficient service to our members, each of these senior executives will work with the national staff in their divisions to set clear goals in pursuit of that mission. We will empower all of our employees with the authority to achieve these objectives.”

No cuts were announced to SAG’s workforce, which currently numbers 398 full-time posts, but the assignment of execs with marching order to review all slots could lead in that direction.

“We are going to evaluate every job in the organization to determine if it’s being performed in the most cost-effective manner,” Pisano told Daily Variety. “Our objective, without question, is to reduce costs.”

Moves are the first significant step to address recommendations from last year’s highly critical Towers Perrin report. The cost-cutting suggestions had been bogged down previously by the combination of a vacuum in the executive suite and fierce factionalism among SAG’s elected reps.

Towers Perrin had warned that SAG’s expense increases were outstripping revenue gains and had blasted SAG’s structure as “organizational chaos,” “ineffective” and “confusing.” “The current structure fosters a silo mentality,” the report declared. “Fragmentation of roles and responsibilities, overlaps, redundancies and frequent handoffs discourage building needed subject matter expertise and competencies.”

The previous SAG structure had provided for all execs to report to longtime associate national exec director John McGuire, who in turn reported to national exec director Ken Orsatti.

The Towers Perrin report was submitted to the board in May 2000; Orsatti announced his retirement six months later, with McGuire becoming interim NED; SAG was then stymied for two months when John Cooke bailed 10 days after accepting the CEO slot.

Monday’s action moved a quartet of top SAG execs into slots reporting directly to Pisano as deputy national exec directors: National director of strategic planning Sallie Weaver will handle policy, planning and external affairs; Hollywood branch director Jerre Hookey has been assigned contracts; finance director Gerald Wilson has been tapped for administration and as chief financial officer; and New York branch director John Sucke will be in charge of organization, education and branch management.

Each exec will be charged with evaluating all the slots within their divisions. “We will clearly continue the process of driving into the organization,” Pisano said.

SAG also announced general counsel David Alter and McGuire, tapped last week as senior adviser, also will report directly to Pisano.

Wilson, who has been finance director since 1983, announced Monday he will retire once a replacement is found but will remain a SAG consultant, while Hookey reiterated plans to move back to Denver. SAG has hired Korn-Ferry Intl. in the search for a CFO, and Pisano said he hopes that replacements for both Wilson and Hookey will be named within 60 days.

Towers Perrin was particularly critical of Wilson’s handling of its annual $50 million budget, noting, “There is no clear picture of SAG’s current and future financial position. SAG has no financial plan and no timely financial reporting.”

Pisano said Wilson had displayed “unfailing dedication” to SAG.

Pisano also gave a clear endorsement of Towers Perrin’s report and follow-up work by a SAG national board committee, signaling that more changes may come soon.

“This organizational structure builds on the recommendations of the operational review report by Towers Perrin and the outstanding work of the Organization Work Team established as part of the guild’s Excellence Initiative,” he said. “Without their efforts, we wouldn’t have been able to begin this process of change so quickly.”

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