United Artists Corp., which became independent from MGM/UA Entertainment just three weeks ago, said late Monday that Jerry Weintraub is "no longer" its chairman and chief executive.
Acknowledgement of Weintraub's abrupt departure from the employ of financier Kirk Kerkorian, UA's majority shareholder, came as one of the major surprises in recent years in the film industry, accustomed though it is to management turnovers.
Kerkorian, who owns 80% of UA, named the show business entrepreneur last November to build a "new" UA after he and public shareholders sold MGM/UA to Atlanta broadcaster Ted Turner and repurchased UA. The deal was closed March 25.
$10 Million in Paper Profit
As a major lure to join Kerkorian, Weintraub was given rights to purchase 4.7% of UA's stock at its initial price of $9 a share for about $23 million. However, a source close to the situation said late Monday that the purchase has not been completed yet but "probably will be."
With the stock's over-the-counter price about 50% higher at more than $13, Weintraub stands to gain more than $10 million in paper profit.
Monday's terse UA announcement did not say why Weintraub left. However, a number of industry sources said they heard that he offered some major post or affiliation with UA to Guy McElwaine last week before Kerkorian learned of it on the weekend. At UA, a caller was told earlier Monday that Weintraub was "not in town."
McElwaine's resignation as chairman and chief executive of Columbia Pictures was announced only last Wednesday. At that time, UA was listed among his possible future affiliations in industry speculation.
UA on Monday sought to dispute a rash of rumors during the day that not only Weintraub but others of his hand-picked team were also leaving. Its prepared statement said in part:
"The company will be selecting a new chief executive officer in the near future to continue the already successful process of making the new UA a major force in the entertainment industry. . . . The company intends to aggressively pursue its present goals under the continuing dynamic leadership of its senior management."
Stephen Silbert, chairman of UA's executive committee, said later in a telephone interview: "We don't believe it is appropriate to go into any details at the present time, but there were certain philosophical differences between Mr. Weintraub and the executive committee which led to this situation. There will be no other executive changes."
Neither Silbert nor others would comment on who might replace Weintraub.
UA's statement came after a day of intense rumors in Los Angeles and New York. During much of the day, UA executives were reported in meetings, and none were returning inquiries from The Times.