Writers Guild Fires Top Exec

Times Staff Writer

The union representing Hollywood TV and film writers said Tuesday that it ousted its top administrator, signaling a push by newly elected leaders to step up organizing efforts and push harder during negotiations with Hollywood studios.

Directors of the Writers Guild of America, West, wasted little time in replacing John McLean as executive director less than a week after the guild’s election.

McLean’s performance had come under scrutiny from newly elected guild President Patric M. Verrone, whose supporters gained control last week of the 19-member board. The tally to oust McLean was 14 to 1.


Top organizing official David Young will run the guild until a permanent successor is found by a search committee. The firing of McLean came during a board meeting late Monday.

McLean, a former CBS industrial relations executive, was hired in 1999. He oversaw a staff of 158 and earned $450,684 a year, according to Labor Department filings. As chief negotiator, he oversaw the guild’s studio contract talks in 2001 and 2004.

But Verrone, whose credits include the animated TV show “Futurama,” and his supporters expressed dissatisfaction with the pace of the union’s recruiting efforts, campaigning to put more resources into organizing workers in areas such as reality TV, animation and video games. Verrone backers also faulted the union’s leadership for lacking the leverage to fight for increases in residuals on DVD sales for the guild’s 9,500 writers.

“This is a proactive move on our part to move the union into the 21st century with an organizer at its helm,” Verrone said. The guild’s contract with studios expires in 2007.

The guild said McLean, who declined to comment, was discussing a possible role with the union.

Verrone’s election came amid a growing restlessness in Hollywood’s rank and file. Members of the Screen Actors Guild last week elected a slate, led by Alan Rosenberg as president, that is promising to take a tougher stand with studios.


McLean’s ouster marks the latest upheaval at the Writers Guild. Last year, two presidents -- Victoria Riskin and Charles Holland -- resigned under pressure within three months.

Screenwriter Daniel Petrie Jr. was appointed to replace Holland, then won election in September 2004. Petrie backed Verrone’s opponent, “Pirates of the Caribbean” writer Ted Elliott.