Man.pow.er n. 1. The power of human physical effort. 2. The total number of people available for work or service. 3. Hollywood slang: a terrific piece of manpower. Any high-priced executive looking for work.
Trust Hollywood to glamorize unemployment. Even as Walt Disney Co. announced that studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg was leaving, Tinseltown was lionizing the departed. "A terrific piece of corporate manpower," proclaimed actor Warren Beatty, delivering the movie industry's assessment.
"LITTLE CLUB." Katzenberg is by no means the only nice piece of Hollywood manpower looking for work. He soon will be joined in the search by QVC Inc. Chairman Barry Diller, who is scheduled to leave the home-shopping service in December. And next April, record mogul David Geffen will be free from the employment agreement under which he runs Geffen Records for MCA Inc. The billionaire then will be in the market to buy a media company. "We're our own little club," chuckles Diller.
The sudden rush of superstar executive talent is reminiscent of 1984, when Paramount Communications Inc. let Diller go to Fox Inc. and Michael D. Eisner to Disney. Both Fox and Disney prospered mightily. This time around, Katzenberg appears to be the hottest property. The hyperkinetic executive is riding the success of the movie The Lion King and Broadway's Beauty and the Beast. Hollywood rumor had Katzenberg headed to Sony Corp., but he wasn't interested, and the offer went to Jeffrey F. Sagansky.
SANS PARTNERS. If not Sony, what next? Katzenberg, taking a busman's holiday at Walt Disney World, is said by industry sources also to have had overtures from CBS Inc. and Tele-Communications Inc. He says he won't consider anything until after his late-September official departure from Disney--but then is open to all offers. "His dream job is to run Cap Cities," says one friend. Some media watchers believe the parent of the ABC network is looking for a CEO.
Not surprisingly, after QVC partner Comcast Corp. broke up his CBS merger plan, Diller says his next move will likely be sans partners. "Owning 100% of anything makes decision-making easier," he says. One persistent Wall Street rumor has Diller making another offer for CBS. A rival studio executive predicts Diller will team up with TCI President John C. Malone, another QVC partner, to buy a majority piece of Sony Corp.'s record-and-film unit when the Japanese owners tire of the film unit's dismal performance. Then there are those who figure that Katzenberg and Geffen will team up. "I'd love it," says Geffen. "We could start a company and make a lot of money together."
They may have company. Rumors continue to circulate that Hollywood superagent Michael Ovitz may head a group of telephone companies seeking to buy a studio. Ovitz has long denied he's going anywhere. But if the rumor is true--well, that's one terrific piece of manpower.