UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. -- Ron Meyer last week became the top executive at Universal Studios as Frank J. Biondi Jr. resigned as chairman and chief executive officer.
Meyer will retain his titles of president and chief operating officer as Edgar Bronfman Jr., president and chief executive officer of parent Seagram Co., Montreal, takes a more active role in his company's entertainment holdings. Seagram is in the final stages of acquiring music giant PolyGram. "I intend to work even more closely with Ron as we accelerate the momentum we have already achieved," Bronfman said in a press statement.
The change comes as Bronfman restructures Seagram into three businesses: beverages; music; and film, theme parks and international television, the three areas under Universal Studios. Doug Morris, chairman and chief executive officer of the Universal Music Group, will continue to head Seagram's music operations when the PolyGram acquisition is complete, but with the active involvement of Bronfman.
Biondi resigned from Viacom under similar circumstances in 1996 when Sumner Redstone assumed more active control over that company. He has over two years left on his contract with Universal. One media report had him in the running for the top job at MGM, Santa Monica, Calif. Before joining Universal, Meyer was one of the founders of the Creative Artists Agency.
The film division has been under pressure lately due to the poor performance of many of its titles. Some observers noted that studio chairman Casey Silver's future will likely be determined by how the fourth- quarter releases do. These include: "Meet Joe Black," "Babe: Pig in the City," "Psycho" and "Patch Adams," which stars Robin Williams.
Meanwhile, the leadership of the home-video division has been drastically changed under Seagram's ownership. Bruce Pfander, executive vice president, domestic, of Universal Studios Home Video, was brought in earlier this year as part of a management team that also includes Andrew Kairey, executive vice president, international, and Bill Clark, executive vice president and chief operating officer.
Universal Studios Home Video has expanded and restructured its marketing department to enhance the areas of strategic marketing, brand management, retail marketing and merchandising, and creative services and support.
The department will be headed by Charlie Katz, who has a new title of senior vice president of strategic marketing. He was formerly senior vice president of marketing. He reports to Pfander.
"These changes reflect our new focus on a dramatically changing market," said Pfander. "This will also help us maintain a competitive position in defining new and better ways of doing business in the fluctuating rental, sell-through and direct-response markets."
Naomi Pollock, who has joined Universal in the new position of vice president of strategic marketing, has over 16 years of experience in retail and packaged-goods marketing. Randy Arnold, who has been with Universal for 10 years, most recently as director of advertising and special projects, has been promoted to executive director of advertising and direct marketing. Madeline Di Nonno continues in her role of vice president of strategic alliances. David Shin joins Universal from Disney Consumer Products in the new position of director of interactive marketing, which includes the management of DVD and Internet marketing programs. All of the above report to Katz.
Jane Miller has joined Universal in the new position of senior vice president of retail marketing, reporting to Pfander. Among her duties will be account -specific marketing initiatives for sell-through catalog and revenue- sharing products. Miller was formerly an area vice president at Pepsico. Reporting to Miller will be Vinny Di Giulio, who has been with Universal for seven years and was named vice president of retail marketing and merchandising earlier this year.
Another new executive at Universal is Marci Miller, who fills the new position of vice president of brand management, reporting to Pfander. She has 11 years of experience with HBO Pictures Worldwide and has held marketing positions with General Foods and Bristol-Myers.
Four current Universal executives will report to Marci Miller, but with upgraded titles. Michael Polis, formerly director of marketing, becomes executive director of marketing. Susann Nicholson and Diane Gloor, both former marketing managers, are now senior marketing managers. Monica Morgenthal, a former associate marketing manager, has been promoted to marketing manager.
Also, Linda Brady Turner has joined Universal in the new position of senior vice president of creative services, reporting to Pfander. She formerly was with the design firm of Cimmarron/Bacon/O'Brien, where she was the head of the home entertainment division for six years.
In other executive moves, Universal has named Bob Fiorella to the new position of vice president of planning and finance, reporting to Clark. Fiorella was previously director of strategic planning for Universal Pictures and, prior to joining Universal in 1996, worked at the Walt Disney Co.