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Universal Studios' TV Operations Chairman to Leave

June 05, 1998|BRIAN LOWRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Greg Meidel's turbulent run as chairman of Universal Studios' television operations is over, with the executive leaving his post at the end of this month.

Meidel's exit continues a turnover of senior management as USA Networks Chairman Barry Diller goes about putting his own team in place. Diller took control of Universal's TV holdings in a $4.1-billion merger seven months ago.

Kay Koplovitz, the longtime chairwoman of the USA Networks cable channels, and Ticketmaster Chairman Fredric Rosen also are leaving.

Meidel, a former Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox television distribution executive, joined Universal Television Group (now called Studios USA) in January 1996. Sources estimate Meidel will receive a settlement of between $6 million and $10 million.

Chief Financial Officer Bob Fleming will become president, overseeing the group. Industry sources expect more changes within the division.

Meidel appeared to be leaving six months ago, when the studio confirmed his resignation as the two parties were in the midst of a contract dispute. A day later, it was announced that Meidel had decided to stay.

Sources say Diller has been upset by the studio's handling of "The Jerry Springer Show," the controversial syndicated talk program. As producer and distributor of the high-rated series, Studios USA initially stood firmly behind the show, saying the show known for brawls among its guests would not be toned down. Sources say Diller felt the program had spiraled out of control, and the studio subsequently changed its policy, saying the violence would be eliminated.

Meidel said neither incident played a role in his departure. He said he and Diller agreed months ago that a revised executive structure made sense in light of Diller's hands-on management style and Meidel's narrower responsibilities as a result of the merger.

"None of those [other matters] had anything to do with it," Meidel said. "This was decided way before Springer became an issue. . . . We both agreed the organization had been streamlined and that my job had changed."

Meidel's principal accomplishments came in the area of first-run syndicated programming. By engineering Universal's acquisition of Multimedia Entertainment, he provided the company a presence in the lucrative talk-show field with "Jerry Springer" and "Sally Jessy Raphael."

The action programs "Hercules, the Legendary Journeys" and "Xena: Warrior Princess" became international hits.

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