This article was updated at 6:45 p.m.
Universal Pictures has tapped veteran exec Frederick Huntsberry as interim president and chief operating officer to fill in for Rick Finkelstein, who was severely injured in a skiing accident last month.
Finkelstein is taking what the studio terms an “undetermined leave of absence.” Universal Pictures chair Stacey Snider made it clear she’s hopeful Finkelstein can return at an unspecified point in the future.
“Our thoughts and support are with Rick and his family, and we wish him a speedy recovery,” she said. “We look forward to Rick’s return, but in the meantime, we are fortunate to be able to tap Frederick’s institutional knowledge and skills to keep our business moving ahead.”
Huntsberry will continue to oversee all U.S. firstrun syndication and all domestic and international TV sales via his slot as exec VP of NBC Universal Television Distribution.
He will report both to Snider and NBC Universal Television Group prexy Jeff Zucker on the syndie side and to Snider alone on the film side.
The syndie arm distributes a dozen strips, including “Access Hollywood” and “Jerry Springer,” and is prepping a Martha Stewart skein.
Huntsberry will surrender his duties as chief financial officer of NBC Universal Television Group.
“We also appreciate our colleagues in the NBC Universal Television Group for stepping up to support us by assuming some of Frederick’s responsibilities,” Snider said.
The CFO duties will be absorbed by Andy Warren, senior VP and CFO for Television Studios Distribution and Intl. Channels, and Howard Averill, senior veep and CFO for NBC Universal Entertainment Television. Warren will also oversee financial activities for CNBC; Averill will supervise financial activities for NBC News and MSNBC.
Before joining U in 1997 as veep of TV business development, Huntsberry was manager of corporate mergers and acquisitions at General Electric for a dozen years. From 1997-99, he served as senior veepee and CFO of Universal Television & Networks Group; from 1999-2002, he was senior VP and CFO of Universal Pictures and represented U on the operating committees of UIP and United Cinemas Intl.
From 2002-04, Huntsberry was exec VP and CFO of Vivendi Universal Entertainment with responsibility for all worldwide financial activities. He was promoted to the NBC slots last May.
Finkelstein was injured Dec. 29 in Aspen, Colo. He joined Universal from Polygram Filmed Entertainment, where he was exec VP. After becoming senior veep of corporate development and strategic planning for Universal Studios in March 1999, he was named prexy of Universal Pictures in November 1999 and chief operating officer in December 2000.
U finished in sixth place in 2004 with an 8.5% share, ending the year with a blockbuster in “Meet the Fockers.” Top prospects for 2005 include “Cinderella Man,” “Kicking and Screaming,” “King Kong,” “Doom,” “Jarhead” and “Serenity.”