Sad news as Tom Pollock, the executive who guided George Lucas through his sequel rights issues and went on to lead Universal for a decade, has passed away aged 77. Born 10th April 1943, Pollock was a noted entertainment lawyer and someone Lucas turned to when the tangled web of sequel and merchandising rights became a priority after the blockbuster success of Star Wars.

The news was confirmed by the American Film Institute, where Pollock served as chairman after leaving the studio. A cause of death was not announced.

“I don’t know anyone who loved movies more than Tom Pollock,” said AFI President Bob Gazzale. “I think his lasting legacy will be how he devoted his peerless legal mind to ensuring that young storytellers could find their dream up on the big screen. He was a lawyer, but he was in complete service to this nation’s storytellers. He joined AFI in 1986, and he never let us go. He was always a force of nature at the trustee table.”

In 1970, Pollock started his own firm, and Lucas was among his first clients. Lucas was working on his debut feature film, “THX 1138,” and Pollock negotiated what would be a billion-dollar deal that secured Lucas the merchandising and sequel rights to “Star Wars.” Pollock also was instrumental in negotiating the “Indiana Jones” and “Superman” franchises.

In 1986, Pollock left his firm to serve as executive vice president of MCA and chairman of Universal Pictures, a post he held until 1996. He oversaw the release of blockbusters including “Jurassic Park,” “Back to the Future” and its sequels, “Do the Right Thing,” “Fried Green Tomatoes,” “Twins,” “Cape Fear,” “Parenthood,” “The Flintstones,” “Kindergarten Cop,” “Casper,” “Waterworld” and “Casino.”

During his tenure, Universal released more than 200 films that grossed in excess of $10 billion worldwide and earned seven Academy Award best picture nominations, including one for 1994 winner “Schindler’s List.” Pollock was credited for bringing in creative talents such as Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, George Miller, Rob Cohen, Ivan Reitman and James Cameron.

“We are incredibly saddened by the loss of Tom Pollock,” said Ron Meyer, vice chairman of NBCUniversal. “He played a critical role in securing our studio’s legacy and was an extraordinary executive, influential attorney and a dear friend to so many of us. We will forever feel his impact on our company and within our industry. On behalf of everyone at Universal, we send our deepest condolences to his family and honor his extraordinary accomplishments.”

Pollock left Universal to become chairman of AFI, where he oversaw production of the institute’s “100 Years …100 Movies” TV special. He later served as vice chair of the AFI board and head of the AFI Awards jury until his death.

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