Bath Salts Mystery: Ex-Universal Pictures Co-Chair Breaks Silence on LAPD Beatdown
Brian Mulligan was a straight-laced finance executive who cut deals with Hollywood power players; now he's planning to sue the police and plotting a comeback.
Mulligan found success in Hollywood quickly, and at a young age. A Glendale native who has been married to Victoria for 25 years, he grew up in a working-class Irish family and played quarterback at Herbert Hoover High School during the mid-1970s. He also looked after his siblings while his mother, Betty, battled cancer. Mulligan graduated from high school in 1977 and went on to attend USC, where he met his wife.
Mulligan graduated with a degree in business administration in 1983 and received an MBA from UCLA's Anderson School of Management. At accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers in its entertainment practice group, Mulligan advised MCA Inc., Lew Wasserman's famed entertainment company. In 1989, Mulligan left PwC to join MCA, where he became controller. A year later, the company was sold to Matsushita Electric, and Mulligan was promoted to vp finance. In 1995, Seagram acquired a majority interest in MCA, which became Universal Studios. In a world where many executives are shown the door after a corporate takeover, Mulligan stayed put. It helped that he had handled the Seagram sale on behalf of MCA, allowing him to forge relationships with key Seagram executives, including CEO Bronfman. Mulligan was named an executive vp at Universal around 1996 and was promoted to COO of the company about a year later. Hack got to know Mulligan well around this time. "The man I met in that spring of 1995 deeply understood the various businesses at Universal, and it was quite a diversified portfolio at the time," says Hack, now a media consultant and investor. "There was nobody like him. Brilliant and very knowledgeable and thorough. A rising star."
Mulligan played a key role in several of Universal's high-profile deals, including the 1998 sale of USA Networks and Universal Television to Diller and the $10.4 billion acquisition of PolyGram in 1999. Ultimately, Mulligan was named co-chairman of Universal Pictures with Snider in June 1999. "Brian has great business acumen, traits I don't think you necessarily find in one person," Universal Studios president Ron Meyer told Variety in June 1999. Soon thereafter, Mulligan would move into an even bigger role: CFO of Seagram. According to a November 2002 Los Angeles Times profile, Mulligan's options package was valued at more than $20 million. Mulligan and Bronfman negotiated the $42 billion sale of Seagram to Vivendi in June 2000. But this was one transaction that ultimately led to his departure. According to the Times story, Vivendi brought in its own management team, "leaving Mulligan with few choices." He left the company a month later.
For much of the 2000s, Mulligan moved from one company -- or deal -- to the next. In January 2001, he was named chairman of Fox Television, though he left that post eight months later. Next, he masterminded Marvin Davis' $13 billion bid for control of Vivendi Universal's studios, record labels, cable channels and theme parks. The effort was set in motion in late 2002, and Mulligan would have taken control of the company from then-co-CEO Diller, but when Davis fell ill, the plan fell through. During the mid-2000s, Mulligan tried to negotiate a deal for private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management to buy Universal Music Group, but that too fell apart. Still, he was able to arrange about $400 million in financing for Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum's Spyglass Entertainment (and at one time served on the company's board), which helped them to make such movies as Star Trek (2009) and 27 Dresses (2008). Mulligan, who has financed critical hits like Erin Brockovich and commercial home runs including Meet the Fockers, was respected by creative types who felt that he understood the push-pull nature of the entertainment industry. "He got that this is show business, that there is part show and part business, and people need to understand the delicate balance between the two," says Birnbaum, whose Spyglass also engaged Mulligan, then at Deutsche Bank, to provide financing to help it take over MGM in 2010. Earlier this year, while Birnbaum was co-CEO of MGM, Mulligan worked on a refinancing deal for the production company. The $500 million revolving credit facility closed in February, and Mulligan was quoted by various publications -- including THR -- praising all parties involved. Three months later, his life would be upended.
These days, Mulligan is projecting a drug-free image and attending physical therapy sessions, though he might need another surgery. But the coming lawsuit likely will force him to revisit the May incidents.
Miller has taken issue with the protective league's effort to link the May 13 encounter in Glendale to the May 15 LAPD altercation. Miller says that "Mr. Mulligan going to the Glendale PD had nothing to do with the beating" and that the league has attempted to "impugn" his client's reputation. A lawsuit against the league also is being contemplated, and in October, Miller filed a claim with the city of L.A. that alleged LAPD officers made defamatory statements about Mulligan and revealed his private information (the claim was denied). Izen defends the publicizing of Mulligan's bath salts use, saying, "If you call my officers liars and I can prove that they probably didn't lie, I will bring it forward and defend my officers."
At the core of the case is which version of events a jury might believe. Mulligan's wife, Victoria, for one, is confident. "He is very, very intelligent," she says of her husband. "He's one of the most honest guys I know."
Kim Masters and Alex Ben Block contributed to this report.