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Tom Pollock, the former chairman of Universal Pictures and the American Film Institute, died Saturday of natural causes at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. He was 77.

“We are incredibly saddened by the loss of Tom Pollock,” said NBCUniversal vice chairman Ron Meyer in a statement. “He played a critical role in securing our studio’s legacy, and was an extraordinary executive, influential attorney, and a dear friend to so many of us. We will forever feel his impact on our company and within our industry. On behalf of everyone at Universal, we send our deepest condolences to his family and honor his extraordinary accomplishments.”

Pollock, a Los Angeles native, received a law degree from Columbia University and began his career in the entertainment business by working for George Stevens, founding director of the AFI, in 1968. He became manager of business affairs for AFI’s new film school, the Center for Advanced Film Studies.

In 1970, he started the entertainment law firm Pollock, Rigrod, and Bloom, where “Star Wars” creator George Lucas was among his first clients. Pollock gained recognition by negotiating the deal that secured Lucas the merchandising and sequel rights to “Star Wars.” He was also involved in the negotiations for the “Indiana Jones” and “Superman” franchises for the firm, which had become Pollock, Bloom and Dekom.

Pollock left his firm in 1986 and became executive vice president of MCA Inc. and chairman of its Motion Picture Group, Universal Pictures. He oversaw “Jurassic Park,” the “Back to the Future” trilogy, “Do the Right Thing,” “Fried Green Tomatoes,” “Cape Fear,” “Parenthood,” “Kindergarten Cop,” Oscar best picture winner “Schindler’s List,” “Field of Dreams,” “Born on the Fourth of July,” “Apollo 13” and “Babe.”

Pollock resigned from this position in  1996 and taught in the film studies program at the University of California Santa Barbara. He became AFI’s chairman of the board in 1996 and remained involved for the rest of his life. AFI debuted its AFI Awards during his tenure.

Bob Gazzale, president and CEO of AFI, said, “Tom Pollock loved movies — powerfully and passionately. His legacy will show how he devoted his unmatched legal mind to championing great stories, and lucky for all movie lovers, he believed that those stories could both challenge and entertain. We have lost a fierce advocate for the art form, but at AFI his spirit will live on.”

In 1998, Pollock teamed with Ivan Reitman to form The Montecito Picture Company, which has gone on to produce “Old School,” “Disturbia,” “Up in the Air,” “I Love You, Man,” “Hitchcock,” “Draft Day,” and “Baywatch.”

He is survived by his mother, Helene Pollock; his sister, Margo Sinclair (Pollock), and brother, Ken Pollock; his children Alexandra Gagerman (Pollock), Allegra Brandano (Pollock), and Luke Pollock; his four grandchildren, Haley, Benjamin, Amelia, and Owen. Funeral services will be private.

In lieu of flowers, the family has suggested donations to the AFI.