Snider, Stacey 1961–
Chairman and chief executive officer, Universal Pictures
Born: April 29, 1961, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Family: Married; children: two.
Career: Gruber–Peters Entertainment Company, 1986–1990, director of development; TriStar Pictures, 1990–1996, executive vice president; 1992–1996, president of production; Universal Pictures, 1996–1998, copresident of production; 1998, president of production; 1998–, president; 1999–, chairman and chief executive officer.
Address: Universal Pictures, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, California 91608-1002; http://www.universalpictures.com.
■ After becoming chairman in 1999, Stacey Snider led Universal Pictures to increased market share and profits. Because of her management skills, creative talents, and film selecting abilities, at age 39 she became one of the few women appointed to head a major motion picture studio.
EARLY LIFE AND CAREER
Snider was not a fan of movies as a child. She was much more interested in reading and books. "I always loved books, and that was my escape," she told Variety. "My nose has been in a book pretty much my whole life, and I've always held the storytelling process in the highest regard" (August 17, 2001). She always dreamed of being an influential editor, guiding some famous author. However, after graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles, law school in 1985, she landed her first entertainment job in the mailroom of talent agency Triad Artists. She then became a secretary to Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, producers of Beverly Hills
Cop and Top Gun. A year later she went to work for Gruber–Peters Entertainment, a production company, where she tracked literary properties for Peter Gruber. In 1989 Gruber and Peters were named cochairmen of Sony's Columbia Pictures, and Snider went with them. Considered a protégé of Gruber, Snider worked her way up to president of production at Sony's TriStar Pictures.
At TriStar, Snider worked with the TriStar chairman, Marc Platt, overseeing many successful films such as Jerry Maguire, Sleepless in Seattle, Philadelphia, and My Best Friend's Wedding. Platt was forced out of TriStar in 1996, becoming president of production at Universal. Snider followed Platt, joining Universal as copresident of production. She quickly moved up to sole president of production, cochairman, and then sole chairman in 1999. Universal was a very successful, "hot" studio during Snider's tenure. In her first two years as chairman, nine of Universal's films grossed more than $100 million in domestic box office sales, and the studio passed Disney to become the top market shareholder. Snider worked closely with Ron Meyer, the studio's president and COO. Meyer, an industry veteran, brought his experience and many entertainment industry contacts to the partnership while Snider contributed creative instincts and the ability to pick successful films. Together their goal was to produce quality, crowd-pleasing films that do not patronize the audience, such as Erin Brockovich, The Fast and the Furious, the Mummy movies, A Beautiful Mind, and American Pie.
Snider was described in Time as not only "a shrewd political operative, but … also a gentle general who has inspired great loyalty in her troops" (July 29, 2002). Snider improved morale at Universal not only by giving bonuses and days off for successful films but also by delegating authority. She and Meyer distributed much of the control that was held in "the black tower" (the Universal administration building) to the individual units. Marc Shmuger, the vice chairman of Universal Pictures, said of Snider's approach, "Stacey is an extraordinary leader who never stops asking questions. She has a great creative and legalistic mind, and she has challenged everyone in the organization to be responsible all the time: have they thought of everything, followed through on everything, have they been flawless in the undertaking on all of their projects, all of the time" (Variety, August 27, 2001).
Snider was also commended for her "clarity and decisiveness" (Variety, August 27, 2001). Her creative decisions were informed and firm, such as rejecting a climactic courtroom scene in Erin Brockovich. Brian Grazer, cochairman of Imagine Entertainment, praised Snider's help in the creation of such films as The Grinch and A Beautiful Mind. "She is a complete work machine and does all of her homework all of the time. The creative bridge I need is always there with her because she has always read every draft of the script" (Variety, August 27, 2001). In business decisions she can be tough, like refusing to grant Brendan Fraser, the star of The Mummy, a big salary for the sequel since "the special effects computers did most of the heavy lifting anyway" (BusinessWeek Online, July 9, 2001). Snider also nurtured relationships, convincing director Ron Howard to stay with Universal.
The French corporation Vivendi Universal Entertainment, Universal's parent company until May 2004, was enthusiastic about the Meyer–Snider leadership. "In America, the saying is that you stick with a winning team, I think," said COO Pierre Lescure. "We have a winning team" (BusinessWeek Online, July 9, 2001). Lescure further praised Snider as "a young talented moviemaker who is 101% engaged and involved" (Variety, August 27, 2001). Universal Picture's parent company was merged with NBC in May 2004 to form NBC Universal. The new company announced no changes in "one of the most stable and experienced leadership teams in the industry" (May 12, 2004). As one of the new women Hollywood executives following Sherry Lansing's lead, Snider continued Universal's success into 2004.
See also entries on Columbia TriStar Motion Pictures Companies and Universal Studios in International Directory of Company Histories.
sources for further information
"At Universal, the Hits Are Coming Fast and Furious," BusinessWeek Online, July 9, 2001.
Cagle, Jess, "The Women Who Run Hollywood," Time, July 29, 2002, pp. 52–55.
Dunkley, Cathy, "Showmen of the Year," Variety, August 27, 2001, p. 45.
"NBC Universal: In the News," company press release, May 12, 2004, http://www.nbcuni.com/About_NBC_Universal/In_the_News.
—DeAnne L. Luck