8:30am PT by Matthew Belloni
Power Lawyers 2015: How Sony's Andrew Gumpert Kept His Cool During the Biggest Hack in History
A version of this story first appeared in the May 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Andrew Gumpert had arrived early to his office in the Thalberg building on the Sony lot that Tuesday morning before Thanksgiving, eager to finish some work before the holiday. When the studio’s president of worldwide business affairs and operations turned on his computer, he noticed an odd red glow coming from the screen.
"I did a double take," he recalls over lunch at the Sony commissary in mid-April. "GOP? Is that like Newt Gingrich? Then I hear a faint voice: 'Shut it off! Shut it off!' It was a person running down the hall."
That message from GOP (the so-called "Guardians of Peace" hackers) was the beginning of the Sony attack that would reveal thousands of executive emails, employee personal information and star salaries that Gumpert, as Sony's top dealmaker, had negotiated himself. Throughout the attack and its aftermath however, Gumpert, 47, has maintained a calm, business-as-usual approach to his job, sealing deals for the studio’s Ghostbusters reboot and a team-up with Marvel Studios for Spider-Man to appear in Captain America: Civil War, among others.
Though wiry and full of energy in person, Gumpert is described by agents and lawyers as cool and results-oriented during negotiations. He's THR's Raising the Bar honoree for 2015 because he's one of the few top business affairs executives who is universally feared and respected — and actually liked by the talent community. "Andrew is tough, but always fair, well-reasoned and a mensch," says Fred Toczek, who represents Seth Rogen and negotiated the actor-producer’s deal for Sony’s The Interview.
Gumpert attributes his demeanor to a "we'll meet again" strategy of negotiation, meaning he knows he'll be up against the same representative on another deal soon, so there's little use yelling or trying to pull a fast one. It's a philosophy the Los Angeles native learned from his father, Jon Gumpert, who ran business affairs for MCA and Universal from 1989 through 2005. The younger Gumpert (known as "Gump" on the lot and at the Brentwood Country Club, where he's a solid 7 handicap) went straight into the business after law school at American University in D.C., transitioning from litigation to entertainment deals at the old Hill Wynne Troop law firm before joining Sony in a legal affairs job. He then did a seven-year stint at Miramax during the heady Weinstein brothers days (which included a few all-night film festival negotiations) before returning to Sony in the top business affairs job.
The married father of three (14, 12 and 9) acknowledges its been a tough six months at the studio as embarrassing details continue to seep out (he calls the cries of sexism when American Hustle star Jennifer Lawrence's pay was revealed to be lower than her male co-stars unfair because her deal was negotiated with producer Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures, "and the emails were clear that I was a proponent of increasing [her pay], and we did so out of our share.") But he doesn't let it bother him. It's all part of playing the long game in Hollywood. "If you play a sprint game, you’re dead."