The Academy board of governors met well into the night Thursday as they debated the fate of 30-year Academy veteran Ric Robertson, who had lobbied long and hard to succeed outgoing executive director Bruce Davis.
In the end they decided to appoint a surprise successor: 20-year Film Independent veteran Dawn Hudson is the Academy’s new CEO. And just as Robertson reported to Davis, he will report to Hudson, as COO. She will bring many changes to the Academy. First and foremost, Hudson is not an autocratic leader like Davis, who ruled with a stern hand. At the Academy, his rule was law. He knew what he wanted and he did not seek much input. Robertson was one of the few Academy execs who reported directly to Davis; the rest reported to Robertson. New CEO Hudson needs Robertson in the short term, because he has all the institutional knowledge she lacks. And he has agreed to stay for now, reporting to her as COO. Whether they work well together in the long term is up for grabs.
One reason Hudson landed the job is that she’s a strong manager, a listener, and a consensus builder who has effectively run her organization, mounted an annual film festival, raised sponsorships and put on a live Indie Spirit Awards show. She’s respected, authoritative, well-liked. “I’ve been gobsmacked at how good she is at bringing people together,” said one Film Independent executive committee member, who will join the rest of the committee at 1pm Friday to make decisions about putting Hudson’s lieutenant Sean McManus in as acting director and hiring an executive search firm. That’s what the Academy did. And they wound up with Hudson.
Well-connected in the film industry, Hudson will bring all those relationships to bear on her new job, which is an authoritative administrative position with a great deal of clout (Will she continue to collaborate with her new buddy, LACMA director Michael Govan?). Of course, she will still work closely with the Board of Governors and Academy president Tom Sherak. She has a lot to learn, and many politics to navigate. But the Academy has opened itself up to the outside world at last.