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Lew Wasserman

Pioneering movie moguls

The most influential career in modern show business, reaching from the local graft of Cleveland’s Mayfield Road fellowship to the eventual sale of Universal to Matsushita. At the end, the silver-haired lion was found wanting: His own lofty forecasts of riches were misleading, and Wasserman required his spiritual son, Mike Ovitz, as a clinching intermediary. Nevertheless, Wasserman’s history defines a business made for agents (because they take their percentage out of everything but never get hit for any part of the losses). Wasserman was by no means the only man who turned the raw insolence of would-be agents into an integral part of the system. But he pushed it to its limit and ensured one day that an agency (MCA) would take over a studio (Universal). Known for his charities and his liberal sentiments, Wasserman was also deeply associated with the corporate dealings that brought Ronald Reagan a second career. Wasserman is a figure of unquestioned power, but did he ever prefer one picture to another?

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