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Hollywood Buzz Has Biondi on Way to MCA


Fired Viacom Inc. Chief Executive Frank J. Biondi Jr. may be about to go from one family-controlled entertainment company to another.

Speculation in Hollywood and among MCA executives grew over the weekend that Biondi will soon enter formal talks to join MCA Inc. as its chief executive, where he would team with President Ron Meyer in running the operation.

Rumors that such a move might be in the works began circulating after Biondi was spotted in New York recently having lunch with Seagram Co. Chief Executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. Beverage giant Seagram, which is controlled by Bronfman's family, last year bought 80% of MCA from Japan's Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.

Sources close to Bronfman confirm that he is a big fan of Biondi and add that he is keenly aware that executives with Biondi's experience and reputation don't become available very often.

"My experience has been that where's there's smoke, there's usually fire," said one high-ranking MCA executive of the Biondi rumors, who added that executives have not been told of any formal negotiations.

Sources noted that Biondi still has to work out details of his exit with Viacom.

"Nobody can talk with this man now," an executive close to Bronfman said, citing legal restrictions on negotiating with Biondi.

MCA and Biondi declined comment.

A source close to Bronfman said the lunch had been scheduled before Biondi was fired last month by Viacom Chairman Sumner M. Redstone. Redstone said Biondi did not have the aggressive style needed in the wake of the company's acquisitions of Paramount Communications and Blockbuster Entertainment.

Meyer was hired as MCA president last summer, after having served as president of Creative Artists Agency. Meyer took the job with the understanding that Bronfman would hire a chief executive if he found the right person. Meyer is expected to have a say in any decision on hiring for that post.

Some Hollywood executives remain skeptical that Biondi would join MCA. They note that Hollywood was convinced that each of two previous candidates would take the top job but that neither did.

CAA Chairman Michael S. Ovitz came close to taking the job, but backed out of negotiations at the last minute. Shortly afterward, he took the job of president of Walt Disney Co. Terry Semel chose to remain co-chairman of Warner Bros.

Since he's out of a job--and because such top-level positions rarely become available--Biondi would probably take the MCA job if it is offered, a number of Hollywood executives believe.

Bronfman's moves are difficult to predict, and rumors about what he is on the verge of doing often prove wrong. He discusses such matters with only a small number of people. In fact, his hiring of Meyer took Hollywood by surprise.

In addition, some Hollywood executives are convinced that Bronfman--who has been devoting much of his time to MCA--will eventually decide that he wants to do the job himself, possibly as something of a de facto chairman. They also note that Bronfman may not need a CEO until MCA decides to make another acquisition.

The CEO post at MCA is the one long held by the legendary Hollywood figure Lew Wasserman, who became chairman emeritus when Seagram bought control of MCA.

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