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Weitzman Shown the Door

Universal Studios Inc. has ousted one of its top executives.

Howard Weitzman, the former top entertainment attorney who has headed Universal's corporate operations for the past two and a half years, is the second high-level casualty of the senior management team assembled by Seagram Co. Chief Executive Edgar Bronfman Jr.

In April 1997, former Universal Executive Vice President Sandy Climan was forced out and returned to his former employer, Creative Artists Agency. Both Weitzman and Climan were hired by Universal Studios President Ron Meyer, who co-founded CAA and was its longtime president; Weitzman is Meyer's close friend and former attorney.

Weitzman was responsible for overseeing day-to-day administration of Universal's corporate businesses, including legal and human resources, new media, consumer products and studio operations. Studio officials say he will not be replaced.

New Energy Alliance Set

Atlantic Richfield Co. and PG & E; Energy Services, the energy marketing arm of San Francisco-based Pacific Gas & Electric Co., have formed a California energy alliance to provide power and energy management services to Arco facilities throughout the state that are currently served by investor-owned electric utilities.

Under the agreement, PG & E; will supply more than $60 million in electricity to some 350 of Arco's owned-and-operated retail gas stations, as well as gasoline distribution terminals, pipeline pump stations and oil and gas production facilities in California.

Electricity supplied under the agreement became available when deregulation opened the California electricity market to competition on April 1.

Rail Cars for Sale

The financially troubled Metropolitan Transportation Authority is considering selling new rail cars it bought for a rail system that may never be built, and has placed ads in a transit-industry trade publication.

The MTA has spent $160 million on 52 custom-made light-rail cars and could face a $10 million penalty for cutting back on its original order. The agency also spent $145 million for 74 new subway cars.

The cars were intended for subway extensions to the Eastside and Mid-City and for a light-rail line from downtown to Pasadena.

Those projects have been put on hold, making it likely that they will not be built for years, if at all. The agency faces a projected $85 million deficit in next year's budget.

Shuttle Vote Delayed

The Los Angeles Airport Commission last week postponed voting on a controversial plan to award exclusive shuttle concessions to LAX's two largest operators Prime Time Shuttle and SuperShuttle Inc.

The delay is being heralded as a victory by small, mom-and-pop operators. Airport officials had expected the commission to rubber-stamp the plan to thin the ranks of shuttle services in an effort to reduce pollution, noise and congestion. Small operations oppose the proposal, saying they would be forced out of business and that consumers would end up paying more for transportation to and from LAX.

Pension Fund Faces Shortfall

L.A. County's massive pension system is facing $1.2 billion in unforeseen liabilities as a result of two 20-year-old "calculation errors" a discovery that could force county officials to spend an additional $25 million a year to make up for insufficient contributions to the fund.

The mistakes were only discovered when administrators of the L.A. County Employees Retirement Association recently decided to bring in an outside auditing firm to look at its books. Those errors were not the only ones uncovered. Auditors say the $24.6 billion fund may face an additional $260 million in liabilities in the years to come.

Pension fund officials say no retired county employees risk losing benefits as a result of the errors in the fund's computer codes, which produced underestimations of how much the county and its employees must contribute to the fund.

MTV Awards Return to L.A.

After four years at New York's Radio City Music Hall, the MTV Video Music Awards are returning to Los Angeles.

The network's 15th annual awards show will be broadcast live from the Universal Amphitheatre on Sept. 10. The westward move comes after an aggressive lobbying campaign by the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission and the Entertainment Industry Development Corp. The show is seen in more than 80 countries.

CBS Execs Expand Roles

Less than a year after taking on new responsibilities for CBS's television stations, Mel Karmazin has expanded his power, becoming second-in-command to the network's Chairman and Chief Executive Michael Jordan.

Now, in addition to overseeing CBS's 14 television stations and the world's largest radio group, Karmazin will take on cable and broadcast programming. One of Wall Street's favorite media executives, Karmazin has a history of producing results by keeping a tight rein on spending.

The management changes announced Tuesday also clear up speculation about the standing of Leslie Moonves. As president and chief executive of CBS Television, Moonves becomes the most powerful network executive on the West Coast, with responsibilities for sports, news and affiliate relations, in addition to his current duties overseeing syndication, international, sales and marketing.

Compiled by Larry Kanter

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