The head of Washington's most glamorous trade group is about to exit the stage.
Dan Glickman, who has served as chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America for the past five years, tells POLITICO he will step down when his contract ends in September 2010.
"My guess is that I'll end up in the nonprofit or academic world," Glickman says. "People who know me know I've had these great extracurricular interests that have been very significant in driving me."
Glickman's departure has been the subject of rumors in Washington and Hollywood for months, as industry insiders grumbled about his mixed record with Congress. He attracted criticism earlier this year for procuring only $246 million in tax cuts for the industry in the economic stimulus bill. The tax breaks were stripped out after reports surfaced that the industry's earnings had jumped 19 percent in January.
From the outset, Glickman seemed an unlikely fit for the megawatt position. This low-key former Democratic congressman from Kansas -- who describes himself as someone "who spills mustard on [his] ties" -- lacked the showmanship of his predecessor, the late Jack Valenti, a Washington icon who served nearly 40 years in the position. Glickman wasn't even the MPAA's first choice: Both Billy Tauzin and former Sen. John Breaux were considered before him.
Universal President Ron Meyer, however, says he has no regrets about MPAA's decision to go with Glickman. "He was great in the relationships part of it, better than Jack in many ways. Jack was very partisan. Dan was very bipartisan. He knew everybody, and they respected him." Meyer added, "I cannot find anything to complain about."
The race to land this plum position is set to be intense. The combination of a high salary and high-profile mingling with celebrities makes it one of Washington's most coveted jobs. The impending departure of Glickman, who took over for Valenti in 2004, has sparked whispers about a replacement. Possible names include California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Rep. Harold Ford Jr., Universal Music lobbyist Matt Gerson, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), a longtime friend of Glickman's, and internal candidates Richard Bates of Disney, MPAA COO Bob Pisano and federal affairs chief Michael O'Leary.
Though it's a coveted post, the job poses serious challenges, including dealing with the competing agendas of the six movie studios -- Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Studios, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., The Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Fox Filmed Entertainment and Paramount Pictures -- that the MPAA reports to.
"The issues are only getting broader and the resources tighter," Meyer says. "And while we do have shared priorities, each studio does have certain issues for them that take priority."
"That job is a gut-busting job," says Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). "You're traveling all the time, you're always in the limelight, you're always working on very intricate and difficult matters with a lot of very interesting personalities -- some of whom aren't easy to get along with."
The official search for a new MPAA head will begin soon, according to those involved. "We will come together and figure out what it is we want," Meyer says, adding that he "never thought party [affiliation] was important."
"It's really important they find a leader who has this combination of traits: access, stature, knowledge, who has some feel for what new technology is all about as well, and they have to love the movies," Glickman says. "I'm still going to be here another 11 months. There are some priorities I think I can be extremely helpful in, including the whole issue of Internet piracy, ratings issues, even while we're looking for a successor."
Glickman doesn't think Schwarzenegger would be interested. "I don't know why Arnold would want to come to Washington and run a trade association, but that's a decision for him to answer," he said.
For his part, Berman laughed when asked about taking over for Glickman himself. "I'm a member of Congress," he says. "I love what I'm doing." In response to a question about his being on the shortlist in 2004, he says, "Well, they weren't on mine!"
Hatch says his top choice is former Sen. Gordon Smith, who just landed at the National Association of Broadcasters. "I think they'd do really well if they had an intelligent Republican who loved the industry do the job. In some ways, they'd even do better," Hatch says.
In his role as Hollywood's top advocate in Congress, the affable Glickman -- well liked by members on both sides of the aisle -- devoted his attention to Internet piracy, copyright infringement and tax and ratings issues. The 64-year-old former secretary of agriculture currently serves as vice chairman of the World Food Program, a nonprofit organization that supports hunger relief efforts around the globe. He was also director of the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.
"All my life I've been interested in all these other things, so the board knew that at the time they hired me," Glickman says. "It was never my intention to be here like [former MPAA CEO] Jack Valenti was."
Glickman, a movie buff who sees roughly 100 films a year, will go out on a strong note, according to Berman. "They put together a coalition and strengthened resources to go after copyright infringers and piracy. It had all kinds of roadblocks, and [the bill] overcame all of them," Berman says. It "got ... to the president, who signed it, and now it's being implemented."