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TriStar Chief Announces Resignation

Studios: Some said the president's autocratic style clashed with the approach of Sony entertainment division head.

May 03, 1997|ROBERT W. WELKOS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Shadowed by rumors of his departure practically since becoming president of TriStar Pictures, Bob Cooper resigned Friday from the Sony Pictures Entertainment unit.

Cooper, a former HBO executive, took the movie job last July under the management regime of Alan J. Levine and Mark Canton at the Culver City studio. But after Sony hired John Calley in October to head its entertainment division, speculation quickly grew that Cooper would be ousted.

As it was, sources said, Cooper's departure was amicable. He realized, they said, that his autocratic style was at odds with the approach favored by Calley.

One industry source said Cooper "wanted to run his own show" and was not comfortable with limitations placed on purchasing scripts and developing projects.

Cooper's departure may have been hastened, one source said, when he bought a spec script called "Company Man" for $500,000.

Lucy Fisher, vice chairman of Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, and vice chairman Gareth Wigan, "didn't like the script at all," the source said.

Entertainment attorney David Colden said Cooper's resignation was not altogether surprising because it has long been rumored that he and Calley could not work together.

Colden said, "He never really had a chance to produce any important motion pictures during the time he was there."

During Cooper's time at the studio, "Jerry Maguire," the Tom Cruise film about a driven sports agent, earned $150 million in the U.S. and grabbed five Academy Award nominations. The project was not developed under Cooper, although the marketing occurred during his watch.

As president of HBO Pictures, Cooper oversaw such Emmy Award-winning films as "Barbarians at the Gate," "Stalin" and "And the Band Played On."

But one high-level agent said Cooper never really understood the TriStar job, where he was caught between selling talent on his studio and selling his bosses on his projects.

"He was not good at working the town," the agent said.

With Cooper's resignation, Calley asked Fisher and Wigan to assume the management responsibilities of TriStar.

There was no word on when, or if, a replacement would be named.

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