Salah M. Hassanein, longtime boss of the nation's largest theater chain, is quitting his job at United Artists Communications, industry sources said Thursday.
UA Communications President and Chief Executive Stewart D. Blair declined to comment, and Hassanein could not be reached.
But sources said that the 65-year-old Hassanein's management style has clashed with the new executive team installed by Tele-Communications, the nation's largest cable-TV operator, which acquired control of UA Communications three months ago.
"United Artists is going through a substantial change. . .to a more planned and budgeted (system)," said John Malone, Tele-Communications' chief executive, who now also serves as chairman of UA Communications. "That causes a loss of freedom in the way people are used to doing things."
Malone said that only UA's Blair could announce a change, if any, in Hassanein's role. But the Tele-Communications chief executive noted that Hassanein, under a previously negotiated employment contract, has been free to opt for a change of duties.
By all accounts, the Egyptian-born Hassanein is one of the industry's most colorful--and able--executives. Hard-driving and mercurial, he ran East Coast theaters for the Naify family of San Francisco for nearly 40 years, before Marshall and Robert Naify sold their 55% stake in UA Communications to Tele-Communications last year.
"He was polite, but only polite, to the Naifys," one movie distributor said, marveling over Hassanein's style. "Really, you would think he owned the company."
In 1985, Hassanein was paid nearly $800,000 as UA Communications' executive vice president, while the Naify brothers, as co-chief executives, each collected more than $1 million in salaries and bonuses. By contrast, Malone received $326,500 in cash compensation that year.
But Malone said Thursday that the different salary figures have not been a "sticking point" in relations with Hassanein, whom he praised as an energetic executive. Malone noted that since UA's new owners took control, Hassanein had been elevated to a job overseeing the entire 1,400-screen theater circuit instead of just its eastern division. UA operates more than 100 screens in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
Under his contract, Hassanein is entitled to reduce his role to that of a five-year consultancy, with no requirement to go to company offices. If he becomes a consultant, however, he has agreed not to work for any other movie exhibitor competing in the same local markets as UA Communications in the United States or its territories.