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Universal Ousts Weitzman

April 07, 1998|CLAUDIA ELLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

After 2 1/2 years, Howard Weitzman is leaving his post as one of the top executives at Universal Studios.

The ousting of the former powerhouse entertainment lawyer is the second high-level casualty of the senior management team assembled at Universal under the three-year ownership of Seagram Co. Chief Executive Edgar Bronfman Jr.

In April last year, former Universal Executive Vice President Sandy Climan was forced out and returned to his former employer, Creative Artists Agency.

Universal Studios President Ron Meyer, who co-founded CAA and served as its longtime president, hired both Climan and Weitzman, his close friend and former lawyer, shortly after he came to Universal in 1995. Weitzman was executive vice president, corporate operations.

Meyer informed Weitzman of his termination Friday. Weitzman was said to be surprised but not shocked by the news.

"Howard was a tremendous asset during the transition, and we mutually felt it was the right time to make a change," Meyer said Monday after the announcement was made to top executives at Universal.

Weitzman's departure comes as little surprise to those in Hollywood who had initially been skeptical about his lack of studio or administrative experience. He was responsible for overseeing the day-to-day administration of Universal's corporate businesses, including legal and human resources, consumer products, new media and studio operations.

One high-level source at Universal said Weitzman fell short as an administrator because matters would sit on his desk longer than they should have.

Weitzman, 58, said, "I drive people pretty hard, and I'm sure that style bothered some people here." He also noted that he had grown frustrated with the job and is much more comfortable being "in the action" than being an administrator.

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Universal officials said Weitzman will not be replaced. According to a separate news release, Senior Vice President Hellene S. Runtagh will take on additional responsibility for overseeing studio operations, consumer products and new media, plus corporate marketing and sponsorship.

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