Jerry Levin has tamed the Wild Wild West.
The Time Warner chairman’s appointment of Barry Meyer as chairman and CEO, and Alan Horn as president and chief operating officer of Warner Bros. on Monday marks the final triumph of bottom-liners at the venerable studio.
The hires came as Levin and Time Warner vice chairman Ted Turner moved quickly to exert their authority over a post-Daly-Semel WB. Under their regime, a new-look Warners is likely to emerge — one that is nimble, but also cautious and austere.
“This is about big business,” said one insider. “They’re pleasant fellows, but they’re suits.”
Meyer, who has worked at WB since 1971, is currently the studio’s exec VP and COO. A trained lawyer and company insider, he has earned plaudits as the head of WB’s TV division — possibly the biggest profit center in the organization.
While Horn was always a dark horse, he is close to Turner and has a solid background in business administration and film financing. A Harvard business school graduate, he is well-liked in Hollywood and has some talent connections.
Crucially, both Meyer and Horn –chairman of WB-owned Castle Rock Entertainment — were tapped from within the organization.
“Studios fall apart very fast with no leadership,” noted one former studio chief. “This is a quick move to keep things going. In the long run, who knows what will happen. For now, everyone will be reassured.”
Under the new structure, Meyer will run the studio, reporting to Levin through Time Warner president Richard Parsons. Warners’ homevideo and consumer product divisions will report directly to Meyer.
Warners’ TV division heads — including TV prexy Peter Roth, WB Network chief Jamie Kellner, syndication president Dick Robertson, international TV prexy Jeffrey Schlesinger and Telepictures Prods. president Jim Paratore — will continue to report to Meyer.
Meyer said there were no plans to fill his former role as an exec just under the CEO level overseeing TV operations.
The new organizational structure, with TV reporting directly to the CEO while film does not, raised a few eyebrows at other studios, but Meyer discounted talk of television becoming the higher-profile division on the Warner lot.
“There’s nothing in this (reporting structure) done to raise one part of the company over another,” Meyer said. “I’ve been (COO) for the past five years — in some way, all of the divisions have worked through me.”
Still, there was speculation that, with Meyer’s ascent to chairman-CEO, someone would be drafted in to fill the administrative void left in TV.
Bruce Rosenblum, senior veep of TV business management, is expected to see his responsibilities grow to play a larger role in long-term planning.
“Bruce has an ever-expanding role right now in coordinating a lot of the division’s activity and looking at it as a whole rather than a lot of different parts,” Meyer conceded.
Horn, who will report to Meyer, will oversee theatrical production, distribution and marketing. Lorenzo di Bonaventura, WB president of worldwide theatrical production; Jim Miller, WB president of worldwide theatrical business operations; and Brad Ball, president of theatrical marketing, will report to Horn.
“I’m responsible for the financial performance of the company,” Meyer said. “Everything from how the capital is spent, to our profitability, is of concern to me.
“The choosing of movies,” he continued, “is up to Alan and Lorenzo. Jim (Miller) will have an important role, too. I’m very comfortable with that structure.”
There had been speculation that Miller would get the Horn position, given his role in putting together some of the studio’s more intricate off-balance-sheet financial deals.
As Horn has engineered similar deals while at Castle Rock, there is plenty of crossover in the skill set of the two execs.
Horn said he would have greenlight authority on the studio’s film program, while Meyer retained “overall responsibility.”
It appears unlikely, however, that any major production decisions will be made without Meyer’s say-so. “Barry’s not going to read that we’re doing some $120 million film in the trades,” Horn said.
In general, both Meyer and Horn were keen to portray their partnership as the natural successor to the Daly-Semel combo.
Meyer will be based in Daly’s office, while Horn will have Semel’s.
“We’ll be in their offices, and just like them we’ll talk about everything,” Horn noted.
Neither Meyer nor Horn will oversee music, where another high-profile appointment is expected soon.