Thumbing through this year’s Power List, you might notice a few faces missing. Where are those Mr. Bigs with their own Gulf V’s and lifelong invites to Herb Allen’s annual Idaho shindig? In a bow to the increasingly title-heavy corporate entertainment culture, we’ve created a special playground just for them. We’ve separated the high-flying dealmakers from the people who read scripts, approve pilots, and sign up musical acts. So why include them at all? Maybe Rupert Murdoch didn’t bring you Malcolm in the Middle, but he brought you the Fox network and he nudged out the studio head who stranded Leo on The Beach. Now, that’s clout.
1. Steve Case and Gerald Levin
Chairman; CEO, AOL Time Warner (pending government approval)
They’ve got merger — at least it’s starting to look that way. Despite Time Warner Cable’s hardball tactics with ABC/Disney, a PR blunder that galvanized consumer-friendly foes of the $120 bil plus AOL deal, U.S. regulators are expected to follow their European counterparts and approve the creation of the first 21st-century media conglomerate (including EW parent Time Inc.). What’s next? Case and Levin must link the whole mega-megillah, which boasts the nation’s second-largest cable operation and 24 million AOLers. And there’ll be plenty to download: The Perfect Storm led a box office tidal wave, Warner TV has two more Friendly years, and a Madonna-charged music division has bounced back after a slump.
The lucrative Warner-EMI deal was tabled to satisfy squeamish European regulators. And that’s all, folks, for some Warner Bros. Studio Stores; several are being shuttered.
2. Sumner Redstone and Mel Karmazin
Chairman-CEO; President-COO, Viacom Inc.
Following its seemingly painless merger with CBS, Viacom has pioneered much-vaunted synergy by peddling CBS’ Survivor on un-Tiffany nets like MTV. Wrestling gave UPN a ratings and testosterone boost. Attempt to spin off lackluster Blockbuster division is shrewd. Hits like M:I-2 support Paramount’s mission statement.
Blockbuster still on the ledger. After Mel negotiated for months for the TV-station owner Chris-Craft Industries, Rupert Murdoch poached it. D’oh!
3. Michael Eisner and Robert A. Iger
Chairman-CEO; President-COO, The Walt Disney Co.
Thanks to Regis at ABC, TV nets reaped record profits. Stock price boosted by animated hits such as Toy Story 2 and theme parks — with four more opening worldwide by 2005. Eisner scored points with the Time Warner-ABC cable tempest — though his squawking may not hold up the AOL deal. And, after years of turmoil, he taps Iger as his No. 2.
No new Simba to break two-year sales slump for Disney merchandise. Eisner lost studio chief (and thorn in his side) Joe Roth. In a time of belt-tightening, Eisner okayed the $135 mil Pearl Harbor, the priciest film ever greenlit. After Disneyland Paris’ slow start, is a second French park in 2002 such a bonne idée?