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Big-browed with the omnipresence of a gargoyle, Jonathan Dolgen has won a reputation in Hollywood for being a bloodletter, an executive who insists on slashing budgets and fiscal responsibility and who can be almost ruthless in his pursuit of black ink. The current chair of Viacom Entertainment Group, he reportedly always has an assistant turn the air conditioning up very high for the rooms in which he will meet for negotiations, always has pads or paper, cigarettes, antacids, aspirin, and a can of Diet Coke at his place setting, and usually arrives at least 30 minutes after his potential adversary has been seated--and stewing. Dolgen also has no qualms about raising his voice.
An attorney formerly in private practice, Dolgen segued into the entertainment industry as assistant general counsel for Columbia Pictures in 1976. Three years later, he had been elevated to senior vice president of worldwide business affairs before assuming, in 1980, the position of executive vice president with responsibilities for making the major deals and negotiating the contracts. Because of his reputation for knowing how to handle a buck, he was moved to president of pay-cable and home video in 1981 when Columbia formed a division for those areas but did not yet have extensive revenues. By the end of Dolgen's tenure in 1985, they did. After he became president of domestic operations for Columbia Music Group, it was clear that Dolgen was learning every facet of the entertainment industry to someday run a media giant. But Columbia did not promise a fast enough rise so he moved on to Fox where he served as president of the TV division, as well as senior vice president, telecommunications. Soon after Fox launched its TV network and Barry Diller exited the company, Dolgen became president of Fox, Inc. and chair of 20th Century Fox TV. Dolgen moved back to Columbia in 1990 as president of Columbia Pictures during the reign of Peter Guber and the demise of Dawn Steel at the studio. Sony, which had spent and lost a fortune to obtain the services of Peter Guber and Jon Peters, needed someone capable of tightening the purse strings. Dolgen reportedly cut such perks as fruit baskets for executives, stopped the practice of sending corporate jets for stars and cut the marketing budget by one-third. Some in Hollywood grumbled that he was being too careful about spending for films, and Columbia's output of films and subsequent market share decreased, even if the ledger showed the deficits shrinking. By 1991, Dolgen's success had paid off with the presidency of the Columbia Pictures Motion Pictures Group. Perhaps it was his reputation for cutting costs for companies loaded with merger and acquisition debt, but when Viacom purchased Paramount, they approached the executive. Dolgen left Columbia to assume the chairmanship of Viacom Entertainment Group, in charge of all operations at Paramount and related companies and boss to Sherry Lansing, the chair of motion pictures and one of the industry's most universally liked people. The two have managed to at least outwardly merge their talents in an effort to increase Paramount's shrinking market share.
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