Meyer renews as Uni head

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Ron Meyer has won a new five-year contract as president and COO of Universal Studios.

His corporate parents might have added the title of chief continuity officer. Taking over at the studio in 1995 after a storied agency career, Meyer has held a firm rein atop Uni through a succession of owners and any number of corporate cultures.

But Meyer, a famously casual personality held in great affection on the Uni lot, exudes gratitude for his professional life.

"I really consider it an extraordinary group of executives," he said. "I love coming to work. I love working with the people that I do (and) I feel very fortunate to come to the studio every day."

Meyer's new contract coincides with his recently getting a new boss after NBC topper Jeff Zucker assumed the mantle of NBC Universal CEO from the retiring Bob Wright. Meyer most recently renewed his contract in 2005, when he was given a five-year deal superseded by his new pact.

Zucker has been "supportive of the creative and business processes," Meyer said. "He's as involved as we want him to be. He's not intrusive, he's smart and he's a believer in our business."

Right back atcha, Zucker said, after extending Meyer's run through 2012.

"Ron has long been one of the most respected and admired executives in the industry," the NBC Uni chief said. "He knows this business inside and out, has an incredible eye for talent and inspires intense loyalty among everyone fortunate enough to work with him. He is a crucial part of NBC Universal's success, and I am thrilled he will continue to drive the growth of our film and theme park businesses for years to come."

GE controls NBC Uni these days after previous Uni ownership stints by Canada's Seagram and France's Vivendi, with the latter continuing to hold a 20% stake. But Wall Street has gotten used to handicapping the prospects of Uni being sold again, so there's a running guessing game over how long those Hollywood assets will be tucked into GE's business mix of turbine engines, light bulbs and washing machines.

"We would love to see GE explore the option of investors being able to play NBC Universal as a public entity," SMH Capital analyst David Miller said. "It's very likely that GE could unlock a lot of value by floating at least a portion of NBC Universal to the public."

But despite a recent spike in such speculation, GE chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt has gone on record as being happy with the status quo for now.

"I can't speak to what Jeff and GE ultimately will do," Meyer said. "But I can tell you from my perspective, he has been supportive and enthusiastic. And I promise you, I see zero signs of his not being supportive of us in the future."

Before joining Uni with a 10-year deal extending to '05, Meyer was president of CAA, which he co-founded in 1975 after a tenure at WMA handling television talent. His first agency work was at the Paul Kohner Agency, from 1964-70.

Meyer, who maintains a regular involvement in Uni's film projects, is focused on an array of business fronts. Those include tracking summer boxoffice prospects, including last weekend's auspicious $30.7 million opening of the comedy "Knocked Up."

But perhaps no issue is bigger than the studio's recently announced Vision Plan, a 25-year development project on the Uni lot featuring massive commercial expansion and a historic proposal tagging select tracts for residential development. Unveiled in December, the project's planning and review phase is expected to take at least two years to complete.

The $3 billion construction and refurbishing program aims to add 1 million square feet in production and office space.

Borys Kit contributed to this report.
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