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Mechanic Takes Helm at Fox Film Unit

Management: Speculation continues on whether other executives will be shuffled at the Murdoch-owned studio.

December 12, 1996|JAMES BATES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

William M. Mechanic was elevated on Wednesday to chairman and chief executive of Fox Filmed Entertainment, succeeding the recently promoted Peter Chernin.

Mechanic's appointment is somewhat anticlimactic, given that he has been the only candidate for the job since October, when Chernin was named president and chief operating officer of Fox parent News Corp.

Mechanic, 46, previously was president and chief operating officer, the No. 2 position at the studio. Fox is owned by billionaire Rupert Murdoch, News Corp.'s controlling shareholder.

Although Mechanic's promotion had been considered a given, Hollywood executives are spending considerable effort speculating about whether more high-level shifts are pending at the studio.

Executive vice president and longtime distribution chief Tom Sherak is widely believed to be in line for a promotion to a vice chairman position.

Other rumors have centered on whether Fox will name a new president under Mechanic, such as Laura Ziskin, who heads the studio's Fox 2000 label.

But Chernin dismissed those rumors in an interview, saying Fox has no plans for now to name a president.

He added that the decision will ultimately be Mechanic's, adding that he expects Mechanic to take his time before deciding whether he needs an executive in that job.

Mechanic declined to be interviewed by The Times because he remains upset over a recent column in the paper suggesting that he still has to prove he can be a creative executive.

A former top Disney executive, Mechanic joined Fox in 1993 and is credited with such things as building Fox's video unit, its international business and launching the company into the feature animation business.

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At Disney, Mechanic was credited with developing the highly lucrative video "sell-through" business, in which Disney marketed such classics as "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King" directly to consumers.

The Fox studio is coming off a strong year, boosted by the huge international hit "Independence Day."

Other films released this year include "William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet," "Broken Arrow," "Courage Under Fire" and "Jingle All the Way."

A native of Detroit, Mechanic was part of a group of Paramount Pictures executives that Michael Eisner brought with him to Disney in 1984 to turn around the then-moribund operation. Before working at Paramount, Mechanic was with Select TV, where he was vice president of programming.

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