Longtime Universal Executive Rick Finkelstein Dies at 64

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Rick Finkelstein

He had played a key role at Universal since joining the studio in 1999, overseeing home video and TV, advising on movies.

Rick Finkelstein, executive vp of Universal Studios, passed away after a long battle with cancer, NBCUniversal vice chairman Ron Meyer told studio employees Wednesday in a memo. He was 64 years old.

"He has been a dear friend to many of us and was an important part of the success of this company," wrote Meyer. "He will be missed."

When he began to transition out of his full-time role at the studio in June 2012, Finkelstein was vice chairman and chief operating officer of Universal Pictures. He had oversight of worldwide home entertainment and television distribution.

In 2009, Finkelstein's role was expanded when he was named a strategic advisor to Donna Langley and Adam Fogelson, who had been named co-chairs of Universal Pictures at the time.

Finkelstein was also a courageous example for his friends and colleagues. In 2004, after surviving a cancer scare, he was in a skiing accident in Aspen, Colo. He suffered extensive internal injuries and severed his spine. He spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair, often seen at Universal meetings and events with a big smile and a friendly greeting for all.

Former Senator Christopher Dodd, now CEO of the MPAA, said: “I was profoundly saddened to learn of Rick’s passing. Rick has been a member of the entertainment industry for 35 years, and his loss will be felt throughout our community. He was a valuable voice on the MPAA Board and deeply respected by his colleagues. Rick’s many contributions will not be forgotten, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family at this very difficult time.”   

Finkelstein joined Universal in 1999 when it acquired PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, where he had been an executive vp. He helped integrate Polygram into Universal.

Before PolyGram, Finkelstein had been president of Nelson Films, and before that executive vp at De Laurentiis Entertainment Group.

He started his career practicing law with Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp.