Called 'the ultimate arbiter of industry power'

Otto Spoerri, former controller for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who for more than two decades was in charge of the seating arrangements for the Oscars, died Saturday in his hometown of Zurich, Switzerland. He was 75.

Spoerri oversaw the Academy’s accounting department from 1978 until 2002, but as the person who organized the seating arrangements for the Oscar show, he was called “the ultimate arbiter of industry power” by the Wall St. Journal, while the Associated Press referred to him as “the most powerful person in Hollywood.”

Spoerri insisted the task was really pretty straightforward. “It’s just working with the producer of the broadcast to make sure that where people sit makes the show flow smoothly,” he explained.

Spoerri moved from Zurich to the United States in 1957 and made his way to Hollywood in 1959.

His first job was at a sporting goods store on Highland Avenue, a block east of the Kodak Theater, where the Academy Awards ceremony has been held since 2002 — the last year that Spoerri was involved with the event. Before coming to work for the Academy, Spoerri held posts at Coast Federal Savings and Loan, Great Western Financial Corporation and Orion Capital Corporation.

He worked at the Academy for two years, beginning in 1976, as an accountant before being promoted to controller.

Spoerri is survived by his wife a son, a daughter, a granddaughter and a grandson.

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