The search is back on for a new chief of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, after talks were called off between studio heads and former Sen. Bob Kerrey, the man they were looking to take the job as Hollywood’s chief lobbyist.
The announcement on Thursday follows nearly two months of anticipation that Kerrey would take the post. As recently as July 13, Kerrey told Don Imus that he was in the “final stages of negotiating” for the job.
Studio sources say that talks broke down not over money and terms — the post has paid an annual salary of $1.3 million — but over lifestyle changes, like the time that he would have to spend in Washington. Studios were looking for a “24/7” presence in Washington, someone engaged in lobbying and immersed in the D.C. scene. Kerrey, whose tenure ends next year as president of the New School, lives in New York with his wife, writer Sarah Paley.
As the weeks dragged into months, studio chiefs got impatient, ultimately reaching an impasse on Wednesday and a decision to move on, sources said. Although it was unclear as to who said no to whom, ultimately Kerrey wasn’t prepared to take the job offered and the studios weren’t ready to offer the job he wanted.
Kerrey said in a statement, “An agreement could not be reached and both sides agreed that it would be best to break off discussions.”
The MPAA said the search will continue. The org said simply that it had “agreed to end negotiations” for the position.
A fresh round of speculation of who’s in and who’s out is bound to restart in the next couple of days — as well as the type of candidate being sought and whether that will change with the latest effort to fill the job. That the MPAA was talking to Kerrey, 66, indicated a desire for a star politico who could draw on name recognition and contacts as the industry makes its case on issues such as combating piracy and addressing runaway production.
Among those who have been candidates for the post are Bob Pisano, who has been interim CEO of the MPAA since the April 1 departure of Dan Glickman. Pisano, who had interviewed for the permanent post, generally received high marks for his successful lobbying efforts to prevent the creation of exchanges that trade in box office futures.
The search began in earnest earlier this year when executive search firm Korn Ferry was hired, led by a team including Warner’s Barry Meyer, Sony’s Michael Lynton, Fox’s Jim Gianopulos and Disney’s general council, Alan Braverman.