Pisano to lead L.A. office

Two heads are better than one for the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

For the first time, the org has divided duties at the top, with Bob Pisano heading up its L.A. operations as president and chief operating officer.

Dan Glickman, who had been prexy-CEO since succeeding Jack Valenti a little over a year ago, retains the CEO title and becomes chairman.

Thursday’s announcement surprised many in the pic biz, though the move had been secretly in the works for several months. It’s being touted as a kickstart for the MPAA to respond more effectively to the growing problem of worldwide piracy.

“Our No. 1 priority is content protection,” Pisano told Daily Variety.

But that won’t be Pisano’s only responsibility. His appointment will give the MPAA a higher profile in Los Angeles, where he’ll be based starting Oct. 1, and will improve relationships between the org and studios.

He will also heavily emphasize the org’s international operations.

In his various positions in Hollywood — top-tier studio exec at Paramount and MGM and, most recently, chief exec of the Screen Actors Guild — he’s forged good relationships with such honchos as Warner Bros.’ Barry Meyer and Fox’s Peter Chernin. “I have relationships that go back 20 years with some of the current studio executives,” said Pisano.

Reporting to Glickman, Pisano will have day-to-day responsibility for all MPAA operations — domestic and international — other than the D.C.-based external and governmental affairs.

Glickman will oversee MPAA ratings, a role he assumed three weeks ago from Valenti, who has stepped back from his longtime role.

For decades, Valenti and the MPAA were synonymous. He had many fervent supporters and many detractors, but apparently it takes two men to fill his shoes.

Glickman said the need to hire a No. 2 exec had evolved into a front-burner issue due to the enormity of issues faced by the MPAA both on the foreign and technological fronts.

“There’s so much going on now that no one dreamed of 20, 30, 40 years ago,” Glickman said. “Addressing these issues is at the heart of what the industry is asking us to do right now.”

Glickman said Pisano’s hiring will enable him to focus on big-picture issues, such as dealing with Congress, the White House and foreign governments and staying up to speed on the world’s fast-changing technologies.

He said Valenti had endorsed such a move. “I consult with Jack a lot — he’s still my mentor — and he advised me that I needed to do what was best for me,” Glickman said. “I’m not Jack, and this is what I need to do.”

Pisano and Glickman began meeting about Pisano coming aboard in the spring, a few weeks after Pisano had left SAG, and the duo proclaimed that they hit it off instantly.

“Bob’s got such a good reputation,” Glickman said. “Everyone calls him a mensch.”

Since stepping in to the MPAA 15 months ago, the mild-mannered Glickman focused on learning the intricacies of showbiz, ramping up the MPAA’s antipiracy division and starting to streamline the org’s operations. The verdict among studio execs was that it’s too early to tell how effectively he’s been operating.

When Valenti tapped Glickman, a former Democratic congressman from Kansas and secretary of agriculture, D.C. Republicans — who control the White House and Congress — were annoyed that the job was not given to a member of the GOP, though the role is theoretically non-partisan. Pisano is also a registered Democrat.

“I have known Bob since his days as general counsel for Paramount,” said Preston Padden, exec VP for worldwide government relations for Disney. “He knows the industry and its issues forward and backward. It’s a great hire by Dan.”

Padden noted that Glickman spends most of his time in D.C. because of a heavy legislative agenda but also has to oversee a large Los Angeles office that interacts with the studios all the time. “Dan needed a strong No. 2,” he added.

Pisano’s three-year tenure at SAG included negotiating two major contracts, streamlining and updating the guild’s operations and battling with elected leaders over policies such as merging with AFTRA and revamping the master franchise agreement with agents.

He said the SAG experience had been invaluable: “I now have a much better understanding of the needs of the creative community.”

SAG prexy Melissa Gilbert said, “Bob Pisano understands the unique and indispensable contribution of performers to this industry. We will be looking to Bob to instill that recognition in the MPAA and the policies it adopts, particularly on the critical issue of piracy.”

Gilbert also noted that Pisano won’t play any role in labor relations, adding, “That is as it should be.”

Based in D.C., exec VP John Feehery will continue to manage federal government affairs and corporate communication.

Pisano worked for six years as exec VP and then vice chair of MGM. He was also exec VP of Par, serving as general counsel and a member of the Office of the Chairman.┬áIn addition he was a partner with O’Melveny & Myers in Los Angeles, specializing in entertainment and business litigation for 12 years.

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