Weintraub Is New Chief of United Artists

Times Staff Writer

Financier Kirk Kerkorian on Monday named one of the most flamboyant and successful of contemporary Hollywood entrepreneurs to head his United Artists Corp. He is 48-year-old Jerry Weintraub.

Although Weintraub’s job as the new UA chairman and chief executive began immediately, he will not have a studio all his own until the completion of the $1.5-billion sale of UA’s parent, MGM/UA Entertainment, to Turner Broadcasting System.

That event, expected next month, will see MGM/UA majority shareholder Kerkorian simultaneously buy UA from Turner for $480 million.


Frank Rothman, a lawyer whom Kerkorian made MGM/UA chairman and chief executive in 1982, said he will stay on in that post until the sale to Turner is complete. He said he does not know his future plans. However, he is to be a UA director and member of the executive committee of its board.

Weintraub, whose salary was not disclosed, will buy about 2.5 million shares of the 53 million shares in the new United Artists, according to sources. He thus will become UA’s second-largest shareholder, after Kerkorian, with nearly 5%.

MGM’s public shareholders have indicated their intention to buy 10 million of the nearly 24.4 million UA shares being offered to them by Kerkorian at $9 a share, the price that he is paying for the company. The financier is expected to retain a more than 75% interest.

Weintraub is a native New Yorker whose entertainment career had an early impetus on tour with Col. Tom Parker, Elvis Presley’s manager.

Managed Major Stars

He has managed a stable of entertainment stars such as Frank Sinatra, Neil Diamond and John Denver, produced theatrical films including last year’s hit “The Karate Kid” as well as putting on concerts and a couple of stage plays. Recently he was named chairman of the Los Angeles International Film Exposition.

He also has been a large political campaign contributor and taken major roles in fund-raising for philanthropic causes.

Weintraub’s own movies have included “Nashville,” “Oh, God” and “Diner.” He currently is completing production on “The Karate Kid II” for Columbia Pictures and will continue his supervision through its expected release next June, the UA release said.

United Artists under Weintraub will start its new incarnation as a studio without production facilities of its own; it has agreed to use MGM’s Culver City studio for film production for at least two years.

UA and MGM will jointly own a feature film distribution system. UA will also own its separate share of the MGM/UA film library as part of its property. In addition, the company will start its new life without debt, as the present MGM/UA debt will be bequeathed to Turner.

About 10 years ago, Weintraub told The Times when asked who he is: “I’m a student of Mike Todd, Cecil B. DeMille and P. T. Barnum. I do things bigger than anyone. I’m talented, creative, lucky and the best at what I do.”

Although he probably spoke without undue exaggeration, he has lowered the wattage on his pronouncements.

Asked on Monday to describe his philosophy for making movies, he said: “It is to make hit movies and entertain the public. I think I’ve done it in the past and hope to in the future. I hope to make more pictures that are successful than are not.

“Then,” he added with mock seriousness, “I will be a successful chairman of the board.”

In answer to another question, the new UA chief said he has “some ideas in my head” of executives he might ask to join his management team but “haven’t discussed them with anyone.”

UA fell upon hard times five years ago with the financial disaster that has been chronicled in detail in the recent book “Final Cut: Dreams and Disaster in the Making of Heaven’s Gate.” Not long afterward, the UA studio was merged with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as MGM/UA Entertainment.

In UA’s announcement Monday, Weintraub was quoted as saying that he wants to “help bring back old Hollywood and all it represents” and that UA has “great potential.” He added: “We are going to be aggressive in our pursuit to recapture the aims of the company’s founders--Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charles Chaplin and D. W. Griffith.”