Sidney H. Sapsowitz, executive vice president at MGM/UA under Kirk Kerkorian and Jerry Weintraub, died Aug. 21 of natural causes in Newport Beach, Calif. He was 75.
Sapsowitz began his showbiz career at Loew’s, then the parent company of MGM, as an accountant (before he had actually obtained any degree in accounting).
He joined MGM in 1957. As part of the roiling corporate developments at the studio in the mid-’80s, he was promoted from exec VP, finance, to exec VP in June 1985 and was elected to the company’s board of directors.
In November 1985 Kerkorian named Weintraub chairman, president, CEO and chief operating officer of United Artists ahead of the anticipated completion of Kerkorian’s sale of MGM to Ted Turner. As part of this process, MGM/UA’s Sapsowitz was named exec VP and head of business operations at United Artists as well as a member of the UA board of directors. Sapsowitz also served as COO of UA’s distribution company.
Turner did buy MGM from Kerkorian in 1986 and famously wound up selling all but the Lion’s library back to him after only 74 days. Despite all the corporate restructurings that ensued, Sapsowitz retained his position and retired from MGM in 1991.
He started at Queens College, but when his family needed monetary help, he dropped out of school and started working whatever jobs he could. Eventually, after moving to New Jersey with wife Phyllis, he went back to school and obtained his bachelor’s degree from William Patterson College.
In addition to his wife, Sapsowitz is survived by three daughters and six grandchildren.