We in the media have known for some time that Alan Horn would be retiring from Disney at year’s end, as Variety has reported. But somehow when Disney officially announced the news this week that indeed the 78-year-old leader would be leaving as of Dec. 31, it really hit me, and made me sad.
I have enjoyed a great working relationship with Horn for so long, especially over these past nine years at Disney and the 12 before that when he headed Warner Bros. Of course, I knew him from his days at Castle Rock Entertainment, which he co-founded in 1987, though less well in his earlier jobs at 20th Century Fox and Norman Lear and Jerry Perenchio’s Embassy Communications, where he launched his entertainment career.
I have always said this about Horn: He is the biggest mensch in Hollywood. And that is saying a lot. In a high-stakes, cutthroat business, where people often root for their competitors to fail, Horn has never been one to denigrate rivals or speak disparagingly about others, at least not to me in our many, many conversations.
He has never lied to me. I wish I could say that about so many other executives and other industry insiders that I’ve dealt with over the decades.
In all of our dealings, Horn and I had just one negative interaction, when he got furious with me for something I wrote. He called me up and gave me an earful — very out of character for him. I had never been scolded by him before, so it really shook me up (and I’ve been called out multiple times in my career!).
Horn and I had been scheduled to have lunch that week, but I knew that was unlikely to happen given how livid he was at me. But instead of having his assistant call me to cancel, Horn picked up the phone himself and told me very politely that given the circumstances, he did not think it was a good idea that we keep our lunch date that week. I thought, “Who does that???” Alan Horn.
Moreover, about a week or so later, guess who called me back? Yep, Alan Horn.
It was to apologize for overreacting and raging at me over the phone, even though he was plenty mad. Again, I asked myself, “Who does that???” Alan Horn.
There is no question that Horn has had a stellar career spanning nearly 50 years, and, as Disney’s Oct. 11 press release noted, he is “one of the entertainment industry’s most influential and respected executives.”
I would add that not only does his amazing track record as an executive speak for itself, but Horn is someone who has been consistently decent and honorable over the years and stayed true to his moral compass, which will no doubt continue to guide him in whatever adventures that lie ahead.