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Goldsmith to Leave Republic; Nathanson Out at Columbia

January 26, 1994|JAMES BATES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Russell Goldsmith is abruptly leaving as head of Republic Pictures, perhaps as early as this week, sources said Tuesday.

In a separate Hollywood personnel change, Michael Nathanson, a longtime Columbia Pictures executive who became embroiled in controversy at the peak of the Heidi Fleiss scandal last year, is leaving the studio. He most likely will join film producer New Regency Productions, sources said.

Goldsmith's move was prompted by the $8.4-billion merger agreement this month between Viacom Inc. and video giant Blockbuster Entertainment, which controls Republic. Sources said details of his leaving are still being worked out, and that Goldsmith is using the merger as an opportunity to leave voluntarily so he can do other things.

Goldsmith, 43, declined to comment. Republic is on the verge of being merged with Spelling Entertainment Group, which is 70.5% owned by Blockbuster. Goldsmith was to have headed the combined entity.

Republic is known as the owner of film classics such as "High Noon" and certain rights to "It's a Wonderful Life."

As for Nathanson, neither he, Columbia nor people close to him would confirm his future plans, but sources said it is "99% certain" that he will join New Regency shortly. The company, headed by producer Arnon Milchan, has produced such films as "JFK" and "Under Siege" for Warner Bros.

Nathanson's leaving had been rumored for some time, especially since he moved out of his post last year as head of worldwide production for Columbia and into a more vaguely defined executive vice president position.

Nathanson, 38, was the subject of intense media attention last summer, when he issued through advisers a public denial of involvement with Fleiss, the alleged Hollywood madam. His denial startled executives at Columbia and parent Sony Pictures Entertainment, since Nathanson has never been accused of wrongdoing in the matter. He was later criticized for allowing the press to link the studio with the scandal.

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