Seagram shuffle

Mulligan named CFO; Snider's solo atop U Pix

Brian Mulligan, recently anointed co-chairman of Universal Pictures, will become chief financial officer of Universal parent Seagram Co., the company said Monday, expanding his portfolio to music, wine and spirits and all of Seagram’s other businesses.

With Mulligan’s promotion, Stacey Snider, U’s other co-chief, now will run the studio as its sole chairman. Snider and Mulligan were appointed in June to replace former studio head Casey Silver, who departed after a string of theatrical flops in December 1998. The studio’s fortunes have improved dramatically since then, although some of the recent successes were developed under Silver’s watch, including “Patch Adams.”

Snider joins Paramount Motion Picture Group chairman Sherry Lansing as the only female chairs of major studios.

“I think the motion pictures group is in good shape,” Mulligan told Daily Variety. “Stacey’s done very well and built a great team.” Ron Meyer, Universal Studios’ president and CEO, echoed the sentiment.

As co-chairman, he said, Snider was instrumental in leading U’s turnaround, “and has developed a strong slate of films for the remainder of the year and into the future,” he said in a statement.

Meyer said U wouldn’t be hiring anyone to fill Mulligan’s shoes, although he added that Snider might add some people if she feels the need.

Snider has had a quick rise through the U hierarchy since joining the studio in December 1996 as co-president of production with Marc Platt. She was upped to sole head of production in April 1998.

Mulligan, who has a strong financial grounding and is well regarded on Wall Street, segues to his new post in January. He told Daily Variety that he will split his time between Seagram’s New York headquarters and Los Angeles, at least at first, and will focus initially on “getting his arms around” Seagram’s global wine and spirits business, the part of the company he’s least familiar with.

Seagram’s current chief financial officer, former investment banker Robert Matschullat, will step down in June, at the end of Seagram’s current fiscal year, to pursue other interests.

His decision was sudden, although not wholly unexpected. Matschullat, who joined the company in October 1995, had let it be known that he wasn’t planning to stay for more than five years.

However, Seagram CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. had apparently believed, mistakenly, that his CFO might be convinced to stay longer.

Wall Streeters said Matschullat’s departure won’t disrupt Seagram’s operations or their forecasts for the company. And several noted that Matschullat often wasn’t as forthcoming as they might have liked, as Seagram weathered a number of landmark changes in recent months.

And, with the company’s reins firmly in Bronfman family hands, Matschullat, 51, clearly had no hope of running the entire works, something he’d apparently like to do somewhere else.

Mulligan, 40, should step into the CFO shoes rather painlessly. He has been promoted steadily since he joined Universal Studios in 1991 as VP of finance. He then moved to senior VP, corporate development and strategic planning, and on to executive VP, finance and operations, before moving to the U Pictures’ post.

Throughout, he’s played a role in virtually all of Seagram’s biggest transactions, including the $10.4 billion acquisition of music giant Polygram and disposition of that company’s film and TV assets; the acquisition of USA Networks; the purchase of Interscope Records; and the acquisition of Spanish theme park Port Aventura.

“In the long term I knew this was the game plan,” Mulligan said.