Gordon leaves Largo

Lawrence Gordon has chosen to leave Largo Entertainment — the company he founded in 1989 with an influx of cash from Japanese conglomerate JVC Entertainment Inc. — and move into an independent production deal at MCA/Universal. Largo, meanwhile, will continue in his absence.

With two years still left to go on his Largo contract, Gordon, as expected, decided to settleout with JVC and sign an exclusive first-look long-term deal with MCA/Universal. As part of that deal, Gordon will have a “great deal of creative and business control” over the films he makes, according to Tom Pollock , MCA Motion Picture Group chair.

Gordon said that his motivation for accepting an indie deal at U was to get back into producing rather than running a company.

“I want to go back and be close to the process,” he said. “I am a producer, but my name has not been on one of the films we’ve done lately. I like making movies more than I like running companies.”

As an indie producer, Gordon brought in such runaway hits as “48 Hours,””Die Hard,””Die Hard II,””Predator” and “Field of Dreams.”

The first picture that Gordon will be involved in as he makes the move to U is brother Charles Gordon’s big-budget “Waterworld,” starring Kevin Costner. The film is not part of Lawrence Gordon’s indie deal at U, but he will act as an exec producer on it while his brother will produce.

Similarly, Charles Gordon is not part of his brother’s deal at U, although sources report that Universal execs are courting him for a separate production deal.

Gordon’s departure from Largo leaves the company in a state of flux, as sources report that the 40-plus employees were kept in the dark about his plans until the very end, even though there had been speculation about his departure within industry circles. Company president Joseph Cohen recently departed to run his own venture, Intermedia, but will remain as a Largo consultant, sources said.

Early reports are that JVC Entertainment, which has provided the lion’s share of funding for Largo over the past five years, plans to keep Largo in business. There has been no new creative head yet named.

JVC prexy and chief operating officer Barr Potter — rumored to be the one to step into the creative job — could not be reached for comment.

In a prepared release, Potter said: “JVC is sorry that Lawrence has chosen to return to independent production and wishes him well. Largo will continue in the motion picture business after Lawrence’s departure; further announcements will be made as we restructure our operation over the next few weeks.”

Reports of Gordon’s leave-taking began to surface several months ago as the indie company struggled over its five-year existence to find a substantive hit and make its mark. The company has had a mixed record of films, none of which matched the success of Gordon’s earlier hits.

Sources report that part of the problem was Gordon’s hesitancy to commit to projects in Largo’s early days, combined with JVC’s financial cautiousness. That approach became even more accentuated after JVC’s parent company, Matsushita, spent $ 6 billion to buy MCA and Japan was in a recession.

There had been rumblings that JVC execs had recently pulled the plug on injecting any more cash into the company. But sources report that it was Gordon who finally became dissatisfied with JVC’s thumbs-down stance on committing to big-budget projects, with the company not willing to commit more than $ 25 million per film.

Sources say that among the big-money pix that Largo had recently attempted to produce were “Waterworld” and “Die Hard III,” but JVC passed.

When Largo was not able to come up with the $ 50 million-plus funding for those films, the projects were disbursed to Universal and Fox, respectively.

Under his new deal at U, Gordon will be expected to produce at least two films per year.

While he is relinquishing his title as chairman and CEO of Largo, Gordon will retain control of two Largo films through their release –“The Getaway,” due out Feb. 11, and “Timecop,” due out this summer — both being distributed by Universal.