Law prof leads for Guild gig

Santa Clara U. School of Law professor Steve Diamond has emerged as the leading candidate to replace fired SAG chief exec Greg Hessinger.

Diamond could be approved by SAG’s national board as early as next month. It’s still uncertain whether he’ll be offered the slot as CEO or as national executive director.

Guild leaders sacked Hessinger last October — five months into a four-year deal — and replaced him on an interim basis with then-chief financial officer Peter Frank. Firing came less than a month after control of the SAG board shifted to the more aggressive Membership First faction headed by president Alan Rosenberg, who explained that Hessinger’s ouster stemmed from SAG’s need to bargain and organize non-union work more forcefully.

According to Diamond’s Web site, he advises the AFL-CIO on corporate governance and financial issues. He joined the faculty of Santa Clara U. in 1999 after five years of private practice, centering on corporate finance; prior to entering law school, Diamond was on the staff of the Center for Labor Research and Education at UC Berkeley, where he worked closely with labor unions on a variety of issues.

The SAG search committee, appointed to seek a replacement for Hessinger, includes Rosenberg, New York SAG prexy Paul Christie, first VP Anne Marie Johnson, third VP Steve Fried and secretary-treasurer Connie Stevens. The search committee also approached state Sen. Kevin Murray (D-L.A.), a former talent agent, about the job.

SAG’s national board agreed in February on the outlines of a deal with Hessinger, who had threatened to sue the guild if he wasn’t paid the remaining $1.4 million on his deal and had hired Bert Fields to represent him. Hessinger had replaced Bob Pisano, who served three years in the slot amid battles with Membership First before segueing to a job as prexy of the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

SAG spokesman Seth Oster emphasized Wednesday that the process to replace Hessinger hasn’t been completed.

“The search committee led by Alan Rosenberg recently narrowed their search to a small group of extremely qualified individuals,” Oster said. “No candidate has yet been recommended to the national board, which is the body that will ultimately make this decision.  But we have every reason to believe that this process will continue to move quickly and that a new national executive director will be in place at the guild soon.”

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