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Hollywood Executive Ron Meyer Leaves NBCUniversal, Citing Extortion

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Hollywood Executive Ron Meyer Leaves NBCUniversal, Citing Extortion

A storied career that took him from teenage messenger to studio chief ends in a sudden resignation.Ron Meyer’s long Hollywood career apparently came to an end on Tuesday.Credit…Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty ImagesLOS ANGELES — For four decades, even as other moguls came and went, Ron Meyer remained a Hollywood power player of the first order, a combination…

Hollywood Executive Ron Meyer Leaves NBCUniversal, Citing Extortion

A storied career that took him from teenage messenger to studio chief ends in a sudden resignation.

Credit…Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — For four decades, even as other moguls came and went, Ron Meyer remained a Hollywood power player of the first order, a combination of amiable mayor and string-pulling godfather. But his career came to an apparent end on Tuesday in a way that has become numbingly routine in the entertainment business: He was ensnared in a tawdry scandal.

Mr. Meyer, 75, stepped down from NBCUniversal, where he was lately the executive vice chairman, claiming he was the victim of an attempt to “extort” him that was related to a past extramarital affair. “I recently disclosed to my family and the company that I made a settlement, under threat, with a woman outside the company who had made false accusations against me,” Mr. Meyer said in a statement.

He did not identify the woman. According to two people briefed on the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private details, she is Charlotte Kirk, 28, a British actress. She was in the news last year, when her involvement with another Hollywood executive, Kevin Tsujihara, became public and led to his resignation from his job as the chairman of Warner Bros. Ms. Kirk had a sexual relationship with Mr. Tsujihara in 2013, around the time she was involved with Mr. Meyer.

Ms. Kirk did not respond to a request for comment. Her manager, Shannon Pierce, asked whether payment in return for an interview with Ms. Kirk was possible. The New York Times does not pay for interviews.

In his statement, Mr. Meyer added: “Admittedly, this is a woman I had a very brief and consensual affair with many years ago. I made this disclosure because other parties learned of the settlement and have continuously attempted to extort me into paying them money or else they intended to falsely implicate NBCUniversal, which had nothing to do with this matter, and to publish false allegations about me.”

After the settlement, a male acquaintance of Ms. Kirk’s had made the repeated requests for more money from Mr. Meyer, according to the people briefed on the matter. A police report does not appear to have been filed.

Mr. Meyer led the Universal film studio from 1995 to 2013, when he was replaced by Jeff Shell, who was named the chief executive officer of NBCUniversal in January.

Since 2013, Mr. Meyer had served the company as a kind of statesman. He had no daily role in the studio’s movie operation and oversaw the company’s unglamorous theme park business. But he maintained substantial influence in Hollywood, where he has deeper relationships than almost any other executive and people reverentially refer to him as Ronnie.

Mr. Shell informed NBCUniversal employees of what he called the “unfortunate news” in an email on Tuesday.

“Late last week Ron Meyer informed NBCUniversal that he had acted in a manner which we believe is not consistent with our company policies or values,” Mr. Shell wrote. “Based on Ron’s disclosure of these actions, we have mutually concluded that Ron should leave the company, effective immediately. We thank Ron for his 25 years of service, and for his significant contributions to NBCUniversal.”

NBCUniversal decided to part ways with Mr. Meyer because he had settled with Ms. Kirk without informing anyone at the company, potentially exposing it to liability, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. The settlement with Ms. Kirk took place a few years ago, long after their sexual relationship ended, these people said.

Last year, Mr. Tsujihara, the Warner Bros. executive who was involved with Ms. Kirk, stepped down from his job after The Hollywood Reporter revealed accusations that, at her request, he had pushed for her to be considered for film and television roles.

Ms. Kirk’s credits include bit parts in two Warner films: “Ocean’s 8,” which was released in 2018, and “How to Be Single,” released in 2016. Mr. Tsujihara has denied having anything to do with her casting. It is unknown whether Ms. Kirk sought casting help from Mr. Meyer. Nothing on her résumé was made by NBCUniversal.

Mr. Meyer’s exit is the second departure from NBCUniversal’s executive ranks this month. Paul Telegdy, the chairman of its television entertainment division, was pushed out amid claims of workplace harassment. He is being investigated by outside counsel hired by NBCUniversal after accusations made by the actress Gabrielle Union and others that he fostered a toxic work environment, claims that he has denied.

Mr. Meyer’s resignation follows the downfalls of other powerful men in the entertainment industry that started in 2017, when investigations by The Times and The New Yorker revealed allegations that the film mogul Harvey Weinstein had sexually harassed and abused women for decades. Mr. Weinstein’s film company swiftly imploded; he was convicted of sex crimes earlier this year and sentenced to 23 years in prison.

In 2018, CBS ousted Leslie Moonves, who had led the network for 15 years, after The New Yorker reported that multiple women had accused him of sexual misconduct. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Mr. Meyer had a storied Hollywood career. After dropping out of high school at 15, he joined the Marine Corps at 17 and started his movie career at 19 as a messenger for a Hollywood talent agency. After working at William Morris as a television agent, he went on to found the Creative Artists Agency with Michael S. Ovitz and Bill Haber. At CAA, Mr. Meyer represented stars like Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep.

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Over the years, he became known in Hollywood for an interest in high-stakes card games, a hobby that ultimately tormented him. “Chronic gambling is an illness and has a lot of stupidity that goes along with it,” Mr. Meyer told The Times in 2007. He said that he had given it up when G.E. acquired the bulk of Universal from the French conglomerate Vivendi in 2003. “That made my decision for me,” he said, alluding to the visibility and management rigor that ownership by the conglomerate would bring.

Hired at Universal in 1995 by an earlier owner, Seagram, and its chairman, Edgar Bronfman Jr., Mr. Meyer was initially given the financing to match any competitor. But he squandered much of it on a string of flops that included “Babe: Pig in the City,” “Meet Joe Black” and a “Psycho” remake.

“I had huge financial support from Edgar and failed miserably,” Mr. Meyer told The Times in 2007. Mr. Bronfman slashed the studio’s production pool to $600 million, significantly less than what others were spending at a time when Warner Bros. was establishing its “Harry Potter” franchise and Sony had its “Spider-Man” series underway.

The reduced spending meant smaller films, but “The Bourne Identity” and “The Mummy” did well enough to spawn franchises. “King Kong,” a rare big-budget bet in 2005, also became a winner. Other hits from Mr. Meyer’s tenure included “Erin Brockovich,” “Meet the Parents” and “The Fast and the Furious.”

Unlike many moguls of his generation, Mr. Meyer championed female executives. He was a mentor to Donna Langley, promoting her through the ranks at Universal, where she is now chairman. Mr. Meyer previously helped groom Stacey Snider, who was the studio’s chairman from 1999 to 2006 before she went on to run DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox.

During his 18 years in charge, Mr. Meyer led Universal through four disruptive ownership changes. The company became the property of its current owner, the cable giant Comcast, in 2011.

Mr. Meyer served as a liaison between Comcast, which is based in Philadelphia, and the Los Angeles entertainment industry. His longtime relationship with Steven Spielberg helped the company revive the “Jurassic Park” franchise in 2015, after more than a decade of dormancy.

Edmund Lee contributed reporting.

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