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The Next Tycoon : Jerry Weintraub Helped Launch the Careers of Singers, Actors and Musicians. Now, He's Launching Himself--as Head of a $461-Million Film Production Company.

May 24, 1987|FRED SCHRUERS | Fred Schruers is a contributing editor of Rolling Stone.

Weintraub and Kleinberg cut a deal guaranteeing them creative independence from Coca-Cola, which coughed up $14 million in equity and another $146 million in advances. "My star is hitched to his star," says Kleinberg, who left UA soon after Weintraub, "and neither one of us was interested in a situation where we were in effect the chattels of another person. We found the experience at UA very sobering in that regard."

Thus, in addition to Coca-Cola's money, Weintraub put up $11 million of his own money to become the majority shareholder, with 78% voting control. Wall Street, cool to film ventures since the Cannon Group and the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group suffered financial reverses, was impressed by the Coke connection. Weintraub raised $81 million by offering 13% on private bonds, and another $62 million in stock to companies like United States Tobacco and a variety of private investors, including former Treasury Secretary William E. Simon. And with the participation of Cineplex Odeon ($2 million) and Weintraub's longtime friend Ted Mann ($1 million) of the theater chain, he has a link with the very exhibitors who are the outlet for his product. Not insignificant is the $2 million invested by the members of his own management team, including Kleinberg and McElwaine.

The Weintraub Entertainment Group occupies the 20th floor of a high-rise dominating the landscape where the San Diego Freeway crosses Santa Monica Boulevard. A barrier of smoked glass, two receptionists and two assistants shields Weintraub's lair. He seldom arrives at the office later than 7:30 a.m.; even his dedicated top staffers don't try to match strides. "I left here for an appointment the other night around 7," says Guy McElwaine with a compressed grin, "and Jerry calls out, 'Another half day, McElwaine?' " Lynne Wasserman, raising a son, is likewise bemused: "I get in at quarter to 8, because I drop my son at school near here, and I have never beaten (Weintraub) to the office. On the nights I leave at 8 or 9, if I stay late, I have never left after him. He has an energy, a very inspiring energy, I wish I had."

"There are about nine Jerry Weintraubs," McElwaine says warmly, "and only one of them is a pain in the ass."

JANE WEINTRAUB is wearing sunglasses as she walks across the living room of Blue Heaven, the Weintraubs' Malibu estate. The big-windowed house is designed to drink in light along with the view of ocean and cliffs. The estate includes guest quarters where both Vice President Bush and Ted Kennedy have stayed, a tennis court where Jimmy Connors has played, and stables where California's elite have saddled up to ride along the beach. Also on the grounds: a gym, three kitchens, an inventory of electronic hardware. There are other Weintraub retreats in Beverly Hills, Palm Springs, Manhattan and coastal Maine if the ashtrays ever get full on these eight acres.

The clear focus of Blue Heaven is the upstairs quadrant where Jerry Weintraub prowls like a mad scientist of leisure time while his family sleeps. Here is the big screen where the world's profusion of television channels are beamed in by satellite dish and frisked for ideas by Weintraub's restless trigger finger; a TV set built into the sauna wall, and a little porch outside where you can sit in the Jacuzzi sunning yourself while gazing at Catalina Island. Attached to the porch is a circular steel staircase--"Since he lived in the Bronx, I thought he shouldn't have a house without a fire escape," Jane says. This salt-air Eden allows Weintraub to slow down a bit, sometimes, on weekends.

But on weekdays, whether here or in Beverly Hills, says Jane, "My husband gets up at 4. He doesn't have an alarm, he just gets up and goes into the gym and works out on the treadmill, gets on his bicycle, then does his exercises. Sometimes he'll walk for 10 or 15 minutes, on the beach or around the town, then he comes in, showers, shaves--and he's waiting for us to wake up. I can always tell, because he starts banging around. Six o'clock, he'll come into the room, bang the door, or he'll say, 'You're not awake yet? Not up yet? Where's the coffee?'--little hints like that. Or he'll say, 'What, are you going to sleep all day?' That kind of stuff. At a quarter to 7 he can't wait to wake up the kids (adopted daughters Julie, 11; Jamie, 9, and Jodi, 6). Now the security guard has brought the papers and the trades, so he sits down and watches the news and reads. By now I'm down with the kids for breakfast and coffee with him. He'll usually leave for the office before the kids leave for school."

"I have a 21-hour day because I want to," says Weintraub. "I like it. I think when I die I'm going to sleep, you know, very quietly."

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