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Former New Line Co-Chairman Michael Lynne Dies at 77

Michael Lynne, the former co-chairman of New Line Cinema who played a key role in shepherding “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, has died at his New York home. He was 77.

Lynne’s death was confirmed Monday by longtime business partner Robert Shaye, who told Variety that Lynne’s family had informed him of Lynne’s passing following a short illness. Lynne and Shaye had been associates for nearly four decades with Shaye focusing on the creative components while Lynne brought expertise on the financial side.

“He was a once-in-a-lifetime partner and the perfect counterpoint to what I was,” Shaye said. “It was one of the great professional associations. Even though we went to law school together, he had the background and finesse that I never developed so we balanced each other out. I will miss him greatly.”

Shaye also noted that Lynne’s son Jonathan Lynne had died a few weeks ago.

Lynne became involved with New Line in the early 1980s when he became outside counsel. He was named president and chief operating officer in 1990. Ted Turner bought New Line in 1994 and it became part of  Time Warner when the conglomerate bought Turner’s businesses in 1996.

Lynne was named New Line co-chairman and co-CEO in 2001 — the same year that first of the Lord of the Rings films debuted. The trilogy, directed by Peter Jackson, was a massive bet by New Line with a cost $361 million to produce. The gamble paid off spectacularly and grossed nearly $3 billion at the worldwide box office. The final film, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” won best picture and 10 other Academy Awards.

Lynne and Shaye also saw successes from the “Austin Powers” and “Rush Hour” franchises, “The Mask,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “The Player,” “Seven,” “Elf, “Wedding Crashers,” “Boogie Nights,” and “Hairspray.” In 2008, Time Warner decided to fire most of the New Line staff and replace Lynne and Shaye.

Lynne and Shaye co-founded Unique Features soon after departing New Line and produced “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones,”  “When the Bough Breaks” and the upcoming “Middle Earth.”

Lynne was born in Brooklyn on April 23, 1941. He graduated from Brooklyn College in 1961 and received his degree from Columbia Law School three years later.

He was well-known as an art collector and wine enthusiast. Lynne had also served on the board of Imax since 2013.

“It is with great sadness that Imax learned of the passing of Michael Lynne,” said Imax CEO Richard L. Gelfond. “Michael was much more than a great director of Imax. He was a great friend to us all, and a source of inspiration who generously shared his wisdom and values. We will miss him greatly.”

Survivors include his wife, Ninah, and his daughter Elizabeth. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m Thursday at Temple Emanu-el in New York City,

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