Forbes interviews Spielberg, Katzenberg, and Geffenberg, I mean Geffen.
- Forbes interviewed Steven Spielberg, DreamWorks’ de facto chief creative officer, at Amblin, the mini-studio that Universal Studios built for him on the corner of its Burbank lot, and discussed his work and the future of the company. The following is an excerpt from the interview.
Forbes: We’re not that far off from DreamWorks tenth anniversary. Have you given any thought to the company’s corporate evolution since 1994?
Spielberg: I give very little thought to the corporate evolution, because that’s not my job here. That’s not what I’m supposed to do. …I get a headache when these guys start talking about refinancing and things like that. It just goes right over my head. And that’s why I insisted, when Jeffrey [Katzenberg] approached me to form DreamWorks…that David [Geffen] had to come along as a full partner. And I said “Jeffrey, you know, you and I need an adult in this mix.”
But it’s not as if you’re clueless when it comes to business. You have a reputation for being one of the sharper business minds in Hollywood.
My head’s not in the clouds, but I think I’ve gotten too much credit for being an astute businessman. I really think I should be left off the cover of Forbes and put on the inside, and you guys should just feature Jeffrey and David. Because I really feel that over the past eight years, I’ve principally worked as a creative partner….
- The following are excerpts from Forbes’ interview with Jeffrey Katzenberg. The 52-year-old, who helped revive the Walt Disney Co.’s fortunes with such hits as The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, is now DreamWorks’ de facto chief executive. He spoke to us at his Glendale, Calif., office, where the studio has built a 14-acre animation campus.
Forbes: You run a private company that has been reluctant to release any financial information for the past eight years. Why are you talking now?
Katzenberg: We are about to start working on all 12 cylinders, instead of six or eight. And with that’s going to come opportunity. I can’t tell you what the opportunity is. I just know it will be there. And part of what I think will allow us to participate or capitalize on those opportunities is to have people actually start to know a little bit about us. I emphasize the word “little.”
What’s the benefit in having the outside world know more about your financials?
About a year and a half ago, there was an opportunity we were interested in [Editor’s note: In 2001 DreamWorks discussed a combination with music giant EMI]. Because we had shrouded ourselves in such secrecy and no one had any access to what we were doing or how we were doing, when the opportunity came, we started to try to tell our story–it didn’t work. No one would believe it. That’s the price we pay for our secrecy.
If you wait until you’re at a place where there could be a transaction to tell the story, you’re telling it at a time when people, by natural instinct, must be cynical, must look at it through doubting eyes. I’m not saying that’s not the only reason it didn’t work out. But it’s a very big reason. Every time they turned to the experts and asked, “So what do you know about DreamWorks?” there was no good news to be told there. Not because we didn’t have any, but because they didn’t know anything. It was a mistake….
- Forbes sat down with David Geffen to discuss his company’s future and how he plans to spend the hundreds of millions he’ll reap from DreamWorks. The following are excerpts from the interview.
Forbes: DreamWorks is rumored to have been in talks with a couple of companies about a possible merger. Any truth there?
Geffen: We would certainly consider making a deal with an appropriate partner if it made sense. So far there has been no such deal. There was a discussion between EMI and us about merging the companies, but we couldn’t agree on how to value the companies, so we didn’t make it. If we had gotten the relative values that we wanted, the deal would have made a lot of sense, and I think there is a lot of value in a restructured EMI. It was a grand idea that didn’t work.
Did you approach any other companies?
We had a conversation with MGM because the putting together of the MGM library and DreamWorks makes an awful lot of sense. It would only be incremental business, and you’d make a lot more money. And the ability to sell that library again and again and again with our current feature product, which is incredibly successful, gets you a better price on pictures made 30 years ago. Unfortunately, we would not make a deal with them in which we didn’t have control, and Kirk Kerkorian is not interested in making a deal in which that happens. It was an academic discussion that didn’t go very far.
Steven Spielberg told us he wasn’t thrilled with the idea of an EMI/DreamWorks union.
He wasn’t gung-ho about the deal, but had we made the deal that we wanted to make, it would have been a good deal for us to make, and, ultimately, it would have been good deal for EMI shareholders. Steven will always have the autonomy to do what he wants. There is nobody in the world who wouldn’t allow Steven Spielberg to make the movies he wants to make. Nobody in the history of the movie business has his track record both as producer and a director. His making movies, whether he directs them or not, is an asset of the company, not a liability. If there were transactions down the line in which we were able to bulk in a way that made sense to us, he would continue to do exactly what he is doing….