Tuesday, June 9, 2009



Who's minding moguls' moolah?

Legislation could force Hollywood to disclose pay

There's a rebellion brewing around the world against what The Economist labels "the corporate gravy train" of executive compensation, but Hollywood until now has managed to elude the rebels.

That may soon be changing.

New legislation as well as new SEC rules could force studios and networks for the first time to disclose the paychecks of senior executives and star dealmakers --

disclosures that may fuel further resentment in the creative community over the shrinking salaries being allotted to actors, writers and other artisans.

"I keep explaining to my clients that they have to lower their expectations," one senior TV agent told me last week, "but some of the corporate guys who are crunching me just got pay raises."

The SEC plans to propose rules requiring companies to reveal details about the pay of middle-management executives -- not just the top five -- and Sen. Charles Schumer introduced a bill recently that would not only force more transparency on pay but would also require shareholder voting on executive compensation.

All this reflects a worldwide movement to clamp down on corporate perks stemming from the realization that, in many cases, the structure of executive compensation plans has encouraged irresponsible risk-taking, especially in the financial sector.

Given their equity-based bonus plans, top bankers were motivated to launch potentially catastrophic initiatives even if their companies ended up in TARP hell.

No direct parallel exists in the entertainment industry, but some Wall Streeters worry about what is arguably an imbalance between performance and compensation.

Companies in the entertainment sector have taken a battering both in terms of earnings and stock prices, but the pay levels of some top executives have attracted wide attention:

The total compensation packages of three of the industry's top execs -- Bob Iger of Disney, Les Moonves of CBS and Peter Chernin, the now-departed chief operating officer of News Corp. -- hovered around $30 million each last year , and Chase Carey's return looks to bring him a payday commensurate with Chernin's.

One agent who represents mainly filmmakers asks: "If the studio guys are still making the big bucks, why are my clients being compromised?"

These comments are reflective of a sort of unspoken class warfare that has broken out in Hollywood.

There's a mounting sense that the global conglomerates are rewriting the values of the talent business and that talent is the loser.

Hollywood's battles are minor, however, relative to the global outrage against corporate greed that is resulting in the firing of top corporate hierarchs.

In France a fat payoff to a departing auto executive produced a public rebuke from France's prime minister, Francois Fillon, who said compensation policies "put our entire economic system at risk."

The Economist reports that a majority of shareholders of Royal Dutch Shell surprisingly rejected a pay deal for the company's senior executives.

Warren Buffet last month denounced the system whereby chief executives are allowed to choose members of their compensation committees and came out in favor of "say on pay" policies for shareholders.

Mary Schapiro, the new SEC chairman, is leading the government inquiry into corporate pay structures that may require more data beyond just the five highest paid execs.

The Wall Street Journal noted that movie studios as well as financial firms could be impacted because they all have "superstar" traders or dealmakers whose pay far exceeds normal executive pay.

The theme underlying all this:

It is clearly crunch time around the world, and even corporate hierarchs may no longer be immune.

June 8

The iPhone just got a lot cheaper - and a lot stronger

Apple today cut the price on the iPhone 3G to $99, effective immediately.

The company also unveiled the iPhone 3GS, an advanced version of the popular smart phone that will go on sale June 19.

The one-two punch comes a day after Palm launched its eagerly anticipated Pre, which analysts estimate sold between 50,000 to 60,000 units in its opening weekend.

$99 is considered a magic price point and could double demand for the iPhone.

It also could move the company into a neck and neck race with Research in Motion for the second place spot in worldwide Smartphone sales within the next year.

(Nokia remains far and away the segment leader.)

Apple claims the iPhone 3GS is two- to three-times faster than existing models.

The 32GB model will sell for $299, while a 16GB model will go for $199.


***Hollywood, you're not off the hook yet.

Producer Jon Peters is still determined to publish his tell-all, according to his ghostwriter Bill Stadiem -- even if Peters has to publish it himself.

Last month, Peters handed back a reported $700,000 advance to HarperCollins for his autobiography, "Studio Hit," after Page Six published details of the book proposal.

In a May 22 letter to HarperCollins, Peters wrote, "I have been besieged by lawsuits and threatened litigation by some of the most important figures in show business."


***After playing doomed spouses in "Brokeback Mountain," Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway are in negotiations to reteam for "Love and Other Drugs" at Fox 2000/New Regency.

Ed Zwick is directing the project which Charles Randolph adapted from Jamie Reidy's nonfiction book "Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman."

***Following his Tony hosting gig last night, Neil Patrick Harris is in the news today with two new feature projects.

The "How I Met Your Mother" star will take a role in indie farce "The Best and the Brightest" and a supporting part in CBS Films' "Beastly," according to The Hollywood Reporter.

***Stephen Colbert is taping four episodes of his Comedy Central show in Baghdad this week.

***After Comedy Central and the Sci Fi Channel, Sharon Levy is out to refocus the channel with a reputation as a sort of Maxim magazine for television.

***CAA has signed Tommy Lee Jones, who exited WMA after its merger with Endeavor.

Jones is starring in John Wells-directed drama "The Company Men."

He is also in the process of talking to financiers for "Islands in the Stream," an adaptation of the Ernest Hemingway tale that Jones wrote and hopes to direct, star in and produce through his Javelina Film Co. banner.

***Director-producer Brian Robbins has also inked with UTA after exiting the newly formed WME.

Robbins returns to his longtime UTA rep Jeremy Zimmer after spending about a year at WMA.

Robbins, who most recently helmed Norbit and Meet Dave, is in post-production on DreamWorks A Thousand Words, which marks his third straight comedy with Eddie Murphy.

***Ghost Whisperer exec producer-showrunners Kim Moses and Ian Sander have inked with UTA. Moses and Sander, who are heading into their fifth season of Ghost Whisperer, made the move to UTA after their longtime WMA agent Aaron Kaplan left the percentery to form a management company.

***Arthur Canton, an influential PR and marketing exec who was the father of producers Neil and Mark Canton, died June 3 in Los Angeles following a brief illness.

He was 88.


***Sirius XM Radio has seen its stock fall 95% since Howard Stern's first satellite radio show. U.S. auto sales are dropping, and Sirius XM is feeling the impact as fewer vehicles with satellite radios are sold.

The company has lost more than $300 million in the past two quarters.

***The New York Observer is laying off a significant number of employees, including as much as a third of its editorial staff.

The salmon-colored weekly newspaper owned by Jared Kushner says in a statement that it is "not immune to the economic pressures being felt industry-wide."

***A one-time charge of $527 million tied mainly to a write-down of goodwill resulted in an operating loss of $535.9 million at Readers Digest for the third quarter ended March 31, compared to a loss of $8.2 million in the third period of fiscal 2008, the company said in a filing with the SEC.

Total revenue fell 16.7%, to $479.1 million.

Sales were off in all three operation segments, dropping 10.3% in the Readers Digest U.S. division, to $162.2 million, as most of the units affinity groups were hurt by the recession.

Among the areas that had soft sales were childrens publishing and certain direct mail titles in the food and entertainment group.

International sales fell 23.6%, to $298.4 million, with results hurt by the change in currency translation and a decline in most of its major markets.

Sales in the school & education group fell 3.5%, to $24.5 million.

***At 24, producer and actor Jordan Yale Levine has already executive-produced nine feature films.

Hes currently wrapping up on "Wreckage", directed by John Asher and starring Aaron Paul and Cameron Richardson.

Next month, Jordan is going into production as an actor and producer on "The Land of the Astronauts", directed by Cal Colpaert.

LBN-COMMENTARY By PASTOR BOB (Founder of the First Fundamental Church of the Bible):

Don't wait for six strong men to take you to church.

It used to be Ouija boards.

Now Satan is using Harry Potter books to suck kids into witchcraft.

It was dead wrong for that lunatic to shoot the abortion doctor in Kansas.

Instead, the abortionist should have been tried for his crimes as a baby killer.

If you are watching sports all day on Sunday instead of going to worship, you are an idolater.

In Bible times, women like Amy Whorehouse, Madonna, and Britney were not called pop stars, they were called prostitutes.

I'm praying for Britney Spears...and I'm praying for you.

***To reply directly to Pastor Bob e-mail LBNElert@TimeWire.net.

(Please Note: The opinions expressed by Pastor Bob are those of his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the LBN E-lert or its staff.)

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