Studio heads meet June 30 to discuss candidates

Jack Valenti, Hollywood’s man on the Potomac for nearly four decades, will take the first formal steps toward recruiting a successor at the end of the month.

At a June 30 meeting with the major motion picture studio heads, Valenti will begin to review a roster of candidates and attempt to winnow them down to an official shortlist of contenders to replace him as president and CEO of the Motion Picture Assn. of America. The goal is to wrap up the selection process by the end of the year, sources said.

“I’ve been here for 37 years and people say, ‘When the hell is that old bastard going to leave?’ ” Valenti joked earlier this year.

The meeting will be the first concrete step to a selection process that was only talked about informally before. At the end of last year, Valenti, 81, asked studio execs to put a succession plan in place for an unspecified, eventual departure. He agreed that he would control the process and remain at the helm he has held since 1966 as long as he felt he could continue to energetically tackle the 15-hour days the job requires.

Valenti then asked each studio exec to come up with a list of their top five picks for the post, which they will likely share at the June 30 summit.

The MPAA declined to comment on the meetings. Nevertheless, the meeting has Washington lobbying circles buzzing, with Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke’s announced departure Monday only adding fuel to the fire. Since her impressive performance as the Dept. of Defense’s chief representative during the war with Iraq, Clarke has been mentioned as a candidate for several high-profile posts. The Recording Industry Assn. of America came calling a month and a half ago, but Clarke wasn’t interested. Clarke is among the top picks of several studios for the MPAA slot, insiders say, as are two Louisiana lawmakers: Democratic Sen. John Breaux and Republican Rep. Billy Tauzin.

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