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Universal Pictures chief joins rival DreamWorks

By Staff
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LOS ANGELES, Feb 27: Universal Pictures Chairman Stacey Snider will quit and join Paramount Pictures-owned DreamWorks SKG Inc. as its co-chairman and chief executive, Paramount said.

Snider, who joined Universal in 1996, will be responsible for overseeing four to six film releases per year and will run the day-to-day operations at DreamWorks, Paramount said yesterday in a statement.

Snider's future has been the subject of speculation in Hollywood in recent weeks that she was considering taking a post at DreamWorks or Paramount.

Her rumored departure was blamed in media reports on Universal's failure to purchase DreamWorks, after protracted negotiations left DreamWorks' founders Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg seeking a new buyer.

The deal's collapse was blamed on Universal's parent company, General Electric Co, which had lowered its price for DreamWorks during the negotiations.

Representatives for Universal could not be reached for comment.

Paramount recently closed its 1.6 billion dollars acquisition of the privately held, live-action DreamWorks studio in a move the studio owners, Viacom Inc., said was aimed at reinvigorating the famed Hollywood studio.

Gaining Snider, who worked closely with Spielberg on films co-produced by DreamWorks and Universal during their long partnership, was considered a coup for DreamWorks.

Snider, 44, was said to be looking to scale back her demanding work life to spend more time with her two young children. She is one of the most successful women executives in Hollywood and her departure caps an unusually long tenure for a top studio executive in Hollywood.

She oversaw production for recent films ''King Kong,'' ''Munich'' and ''The 40-Year-Old Virgin'' as well as lucrative franchises such as ''Jurassic Park'' and ''American Pie.'' But both ''King Kong'' and ''Munich,'' released last year, were box office disappointments, as were ''Cinderella Man'' and ''The Producers.'' Snider will begin her tenure at DreamWorks when her contract with Universal expires at the end of this year, Paramount said.

In her new role, she will report to Paramount Pictures Chairman Brad Grey and will share chairman duties at DreamWorks with Geffen.

Spielberg will continue in his role as director-producer for DreamWorks.

''This is an emotional beginning and ending for me,'' Snider said in a statement. Snider added that she had ''dreamed of working with Steven Spielberg for many years; and this is my opportunity.'' Paramount Pictures is a unit of Viacom Inc. Universal is a unit of NBC Universal, which is controlled by General Electric Co.

There had been industry speculation that Snider was being wooed by Paramount to replace studio president Gail Berman.

But in a nod to Berman, Snider said in a statement on Sunday that she was ''thrilled...to be part of the transformation going on at Paramount...with Gail and Rob.'' The rumors had prompted Universal Studios President Ron Meyer to issue Snider an ultimatum forcing her to decide whether to renew her contract by Monday, Snider told the Los Angeles Times.

REUTERS

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