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Universal Studios chief Ron Meyer is offered contract extension

But he and Comcast have yet to reach an agreement: They are negotiating how long the extension would be.

May 17, 2011|By Ben Fritz, Los Angeles Times

Comcast Corp. has made an offer to renew the contract of longtime Universal Studios chief Ron Meyer — a potential vote of confidence that could quell speculation in Hollywood that his days in the job are numbered under the studio's new ownership by the cable giant.

But the two sides have yet to reach an agreement. A key sticking point in the negotiations is how long Meyer's contract would be extended beyond its current expiration in 2012. Comcast was offering a shorter extension than the executive would like, according to a person familiar with the matter who requested anonymity because of the confidentiality of the talks.

The negotiations indicate that Steve Burke — who became chief executive of Universal's parent company NBCUniversal when Comcast bought the media giant in January — is comfortable working with Meyer and his team at Universal for at least some time beyond next year but does not seem ready to commit for the long term.

A spokesman for NBCUniversal declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for Universal Studios.

Meyer, 66, a former talent agent who co-founded the powerhouse Creative Artists Agency, has been president and chief operating officer of Universal's movie and theme parks businesses for 16 years. During that time he has had nine different bosses at Universal, which has been bought and sold by several corporate parents including Seagram, Vivendi and General Electric.

Universal has had a difficult run at the box office over the last two years, one littered with such costly flops as "Land of the Lost," "The Wolfman" and "Green Zone." In late 2009, Meyer fired his top film executives and replaced them with marketing chief Adam Fogelson and production president Donna Langley, making them chairman and co-chairman, respectively. The duo's slate of films is just starting to reach theaters, and their first big-budget release, "Fast Five," is a worldwide hit.

This past weekend, the studio's comedy "Bridesmaids" got off to a good start with $26.2 million in ticket sales.

When Comcast acquired NBCUniversal, many speculated that the Philadelphia-based cable operator would wait to see how the film studio's upcoming slate of high-risk projects — including this summer's sci-fi western "Cowboys and Aliens" and next year's board game adaptation "Battleship" — performed before making any management decisions.

So far, Burke's top priority has been fixing the ailing NBC broadcast network.

ben.fritz@latimes.com

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