VIN DIESEL If A Man Apart’s box office belly flop didn’t sting, the $51 million opening of 2 Fast 2 Furious — a sequel many thought would tank without him — must have. With The Rock and Ice Cube (Diesel’s XXX replacement) threatening to usurp his throne as beefy-armed action king, he might have to kiss those $20 million paydays goodbye. Next year’s Riddick — the sequel to his career-making Pitch Black — is suddenly looking very Pivotal Moment.
COMCAST When it acquired AT&T Broadband last November, the company became the largest provider of high-speed Internet access as well as the largest cable operator (21.3 million subscribers). With former Disney-ABC exec Stephen B. Burke heading cable operations, casual talk of securing view-on-demand rights for TV programming could become real, putting president-CEO Brian L. Roberts in league with Rupert Murdoch. And then there are those lingering rumors of making a bid for Disney…
WARREN LIEBERFARB Widely credited with being the brain behind the DVD revolution, he abruptly departed as chief of Warner Home Video in January (after Warner turned down his idea to form a new film and DVD distribution unit — with him in charge, natch). The DVD’s architect has, for now, turned his revolutionary eye to audio waves, joining the board of directors of the satellite radio service SIRIUS.
ANN GODOFF The publishing player ousted from Random House last January has wasted no time in opening a fresh chapter in her career: Her new Penguin Press imprint already boasts some 30 big-name scribblers, including Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’s John Berendt. Can the formidable and feared editor do for Penguin what she couldn’t do at Random House — meet her sales quotas? Ask her critics.
BERTELSMANN AG Plans for world-wide domination have been seriously scaled back since former CEO Thomas Middelhoff was ousted. Over the past year, new boss Gunter Thielen has sold the company’s stake in Barnes & Noble.com back to the book retailer, killed a $300 million deal to buy the Time Warner Book Group, and delayed the company’s partial IPO plans (originally scheduled for 2005). Which makes Bertelsmann’s only remaining major U.S. holdings BMG Music (the No. 3 label) and book publisher Random House. Headaches from the Middelhoff era still linger as well — like that $17 billion Napster-related lawsuit by a group of songwriters.