Universal Pictures vice chairman and COO Rick Finkelstein has died, the studio confirmed on Wednesday. He was 64.
The longtime executive, who had overseen the worldwide home entertainment and television distribution activities of Universal Pictures, had been battling cancer.
NBCUniversal vice chairman Ron Meyer sent a memo to employees, saying: “I have some sad news to share with you today. Last night, after a long and difficult battle with cancer, our own Rick Finkelstein passed away. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones. He has been a dear friend to many of us and was an important part of the success of this company. He will be missed.”
Finkelstein started out as an entertainment lawyer, practicing at Mitchell, Silverberg and Knupp from 1978 to 1986. Finkelstein then joined De Laurentiis Entertainment Group and became president of Nelson Films. He moved from Nelson to Polygram Filmed Entertainment, where he was responsible for integrating the shingle when it was merged into Universal.
He started at Universal Studios in 1999 as senior VP, corporate development and strategic planning but was soon named president of Universal Pictures. He was named chief operating officer in December 2000, then was elevated to Universal Pictures vice chair and exec VP of Universal Studios in 2006. In October 2009, his role was enhanced to that of key strategic adviser to the newly named chairman of Universal Pictures Adam Fogelson and co-chair Donna Langley. Most recently, he was vice chairman and COO of Universal Pictures before beginning a transition toward retirement in 2012.
Finkelstein represented Universal on the board of the Motion Pictures Association of America as well as on the board of the American Cinematheque.
MPAA CEO Chris Dodd said in a statement, “He was a valuable voice on the MPAA board and deeply respected by his colleagues. Rick’s many contributions will not be forgotten.”
The exec survived a serious accident while skiing in Aspen in 2004 that broke his back and collapsed both lungs.
His remarkable recovery and return to skiing after years of rehab and many surgeries was the subject of a short film that played at the Sundance Film Fest in 2012, “The Movement: One Man Joins an Uprising.”