YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Company Town

2 Top Marketing Execs Ousted at Universal

The terminations point up the desperation of Seagram chief Bronfman as he seeks better results from the studio.


In a continuing dismantling of the top management team at Universal Studios, co-marketing heads Buffy Shutt and Kathy Jones have been forced out of their posts at the movie division.

Shutt and Jones, who are among the most highly regarded marketing executives in Hollywood, are only the latest to go in a wave of high-level terminations at the studio in the last week, underscoring the desperation of Seagram Co. chief Edgar Bronfman Jr. to extract better results from his entertainment empire.

Universal's movie division has been plagued by a prolonged string of box-office duds, most recently including "Primary Colors" and "Mercury Rising." In such cases, the marketing executives often get the blame when movies don't work, and Bronfman is known to have been unhappy with Shutt and Jones, privately criticizing them for not operating as team players.

On Tuesday, production president Marc Platt was let go for a different reason: He clashed with his boss, motion picture group chairman Casey Silver. Last week, Howard Weitzman, executive vice president for corporate operations, was ousted long before his contract expired.

Few in Hollywood believe that Shutt and Jones are the last to go. For one thing, none of the executives fired so far had much to do with choosing the movies that have bombed.

In true Hollywood fashion, Shutt and Jones will remain in the Universal fold in their new role as producers--positions contractually guaranteed them. Platt is also considering a producer deal at the studio.

Following a week of intensive meetings with Silver over how marketing should be run, Shutt and Jones saw the writing on the wall and resigned late Thursday. Sources said they have known for some time that Bronfman had wanted them out. Though he never directly expressed his displeasure to them, sources said Bronfman was put off by the independence with which Shutt and Jones operated their division.

Shutt and Jones both joined Universal in October 1994, just months before Seagram acquired the studio. During their tenure, they were responsible for marketing such hits as "Liar Liar," "Apollo 13" and "Casper," as well as some misses, including "Blues Brothers 2000," "The Jackal" and "Dante's Peak."

The partners, who were brought to Universal at the behest of Steven Spielberg, previously headed marketing at Columbia and TriStar Pictures, where they created the campaigns for "Sleepless in Seattle," "Jumanji," "Philadelphia" and "Mary Reilly."

Los Angeles Times Articles