Ron Meyer, one of Hollywood’s most consistent and longest-serving executives, announced on Tuesday August 18 2020 that he was leaving NBCUniversal after 25 years at the company, saying he was the victim of an extortion scheme.
Mr. Meyer led the Universal film studio from 1995 to 2013, when he was replaced by Jeff Shell, who was named the chief executive officer of NBCUniversal in January. Since 2013, Mr. Meyer had served the company as a kind of statesman, with the title of executive vice chairman and a diminished presence on the Universal lot.
After dropping out of high school at 15, he joined the Marine Corps at 17 and started his movie career at 19 as a messenger for a Hollywood talent agency. After working at William Morris as a television agent, he went on to found the Creative Artists Agency with Michael S. Ovitz and Bill Haber. At CAA, Mr. Meyer represented stars like Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep.
Over the years, he became known in Hollywood for an interest in high-stakes card games, a hobby that ultimately tormented him.
Hired at Universal in 1995 by an earlier owner, Seagram, and its chairman, Edgar Bronfman Jr., Mr. Meyer was initially given the financing to match any competitor. But he squandered much of it on a string of flops that included “Babe: Pig in the City,” “Meet Joe Black” and a “Psycho” remake.
Reduced spending meant smaller films, most of which stopped short of top-level success, even though “The Bourne Identity” and “The Mummy” did well enough to spawn franchises. “King Kong,” a rare big-budget bet in 2005, cost more than $200 million, but ultimately became a winner. Other hits from Mr. Meyer’s tenure included “Erin Brockovich,” “Meet the Parents” and “The Fast and the Furious.”
Mr. Meyer championed female executives. He was a mentor to Donna Langley, promoting her through the ranks at Universal, where she is now chairman. Mr. Meyer previously helped groom Stacey Snider, who was the studio’s chairman from 1999 to 2006 before she went on to run DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox.
During his 18 years in charge, Mr. Meyer led Universal through four disruptive ownership changes. The company became the property of its current owner, the cable giant Comcast, in 2011.
Mr. Meyer served as a liaison between Comcast, which is based in Philadelphia, and the Los Angeles entertainment industry. His longtime relationship with Steven Spielberg helped the company revive the “Jurassic Park” franchise in 2015, after more than a decade of dormancy.