Gordon Crawford Retires – Hollywood Loses a Great One

Hollywood should take a moment to regret the retirement this week of Gordon Crawford of Capital Research and Management, the one of the most influential and successful investors in media and entertainment

Hollywood should take a moment to regret the retirement this week of Gordon Crawford of Capital Research and Management, one of the wisest, most influential and most successful investors in media and entertainment of the past several decades.

Crawford (pictured above with Rupert Murdoch and below with Peter Chernin) sent out a note to friends on Wednesday — on which were copied a Who’s Who of leaders in entertainment and technology (no, I’m not sharing) — titled “My Retirement,” in which he writes with typical understatement:

“This Friday, December 21, I head down the elevator for the last time at Capital. I have been blessed to spend 41 years at a firm that has grown from $2.0B in assets under management when I joined to one today that manages $1.1T.”

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That’s “T” for trillion. Known as “Gordy” to all, Crawford has been in the business for more than 41 years and has been a mentor and adviser to two generations of entertainment industry leaders. His views are enormously influential in the world of media and entertainment, which is not much of a surprise since his foresight into business trends have been remarkable.

Michael Burns, the vice chairman at Lionsgate, had this to say about him when I asked: "Gordy epitomizes the term 'blue chip investor' on every level. He will forever be considered a Lionsgate family member."

Crawford is a long-time investor in the independent studio, and he helped fend off the hostile takeover advances of Carl Icahn two years ago. He also spearheaded Capital’s major holdings in Time Warner Inc., News Corp., Comcast and DirecTV.

While a consummate gentleman, Crawford has never been shy about sharing his views. He fell out with the Yahoo! CEO Jerry Yang over Yang’s decision to reject a merger with Microsoft in 2008. He exited the investment, Yahoo’s stock has never recovered, and the company has suffered successive leadership changes since.

After AOL Time Warner stock declined in the wake of those two companies merging, Crawford pushed for the departure of Steve Case as chairman. And in 2001 he dumped all of his company’s 66 million Walt Disney Co. shares over his disapproval of CEO Michael Eisner’s performance.

In conversations with TheWrap over the past year, Crawford often has spoken about the need for further consolidation in the entertainment industry, even as he has retained holdings in media companies. He also made sure to pass the baton to his much-younger colleague, Brad Barrett.

Crawford is also a major philanthropist, having put his family foundation name on Southern California Public Radio, where he is a major supporter.

A huge fly fisherman, he frequently takes movie and media moguls fishing at his vacation home.

He observed wryly in his goodbye note: “I have retired, not died (unless the Mayans know something that I don't, seeing the Mayan end of the world is on the same day as my retirement)” and, nice guy that he is, asks his friends to help his now-idle assistant find a new gig.

We’ll miss you, Gordy.