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Oscars: Candidates for Film Academy President Line Up

5:00 AM PST 06/19/2013 by Gregg Kilday
Illustration by: James Steinberg

It could be Rob Friedman vs. Cheryl Boone Isaacs as Hawk Koch is termed out and the Academy nears a key election that could provide a stark leadership choice.

This story first appeared in the June 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

With Hawk Koch's tenure as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences entering its final days, his potential replacements already are lining up. Rob Friedman, co-chairman of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, is looking like the front-runner, with former marketing executive Cheryl Boone Isaacs as his main challenger.

Of course, the Academy being the Academy, no one officially can be seen campaigning for the unpaid position. And the winner won't be known until July 30, when the Academy's 48-member board of governors meets to vote for officers for the coming year.

"I've had a ball," says Koch of his tenure -- because he'll have served the limit of nine consecutive years on the board, he's not eligible to run for a second one-year term as president -- "but it's not my place to discuss who should succeed me."

Neither Isaacs, the organization's first vp, or Friedman, its treasurer, would speak about their interest in the job, which, in addition to overseeing the Oscars show, now includes helping steer the development of the Academy Museum, due to open in 2017. But the argument quietly being made on Friedman's behalf is that as the Academy's ambitions grow, it needs an industry leader who can meet with studio heads and other corporate execs as their equal.

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Isaacs, on the other hand, would help with another of the Academy's challenges -- opening itself up to a more diverse membership -- because she would be only the third woman and first African-American to head the organization in its 86-year history.

"Rob can be a divisive guy, but he's also likable and smart -- and he's been very rah-rah for the Academy," says one member watching the proceedings. "And Cheryl is seen as a person who has given a lot to the Academy."

A surprise candidate could yet emerge, since each of the branches will elect or re-elect one governor over the coming month, and several existing governors like Fox's Jim Gianopulos and DreamWorks' Marvin Levy have hit term limits and will have to be replaced.

Says another member, "Since the balloting is secret, you never know what's going to happen until everyone's in that room."

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