New AMPAS COO Ric Robertson Says He’s ‘Absolutely’ Sticking Around

Passed over for top position, longtime Academy exec says he’s committed to working with Dawn Hudson as COO

As a 30-year veteran of the Academy and a 20-year occupant of the executive administrator position, Ric Robertson was obviously on the shortlist of candidates to replace retiring executive director Bruce Davis. Instead, a desire for fresh blood in the Academy resulted in the hiring of Film Independent chief Dawn Hudson as CEO; Robertson was asked to report to Hudson from the newly-created position of COO.

A few hours after the Academy announced its restructing, Robertson talked to TheWrap about his choice to stay and his plans for the future. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Ric RobertsonThe question lots of people are asking is whether, after being passed over for the top job, you're really committed to sticking around and reporting to Dawn.
Absolutely. I love the Academy, and I love the work that it does. I've had a lot of governors and members come up to me over the last few months indicating a lot of affection and support for what I've done here. And that means a lot. I don't want to leave — I want to stay, and be involved in the planning that needs to be done. 

And I've only had a short time to spend getting to know Dawn, but I think it's going to work out in terms of finding the best ways to bring the Academy into the future.

Will your duties change significantly as you move from executive administrator to the new COO position?
I think they'll change to some degree. We haven't figured out exactly how this will be structured, but that's something we're going to take a hard look at over the next couple of months. I definitely have ideas about perhaps getting fewer direct reports, so that I can spend a little more time thinking strategically.

When did you first learn that they might restructure the executive office and ask you to take this job?
Not until a couple of weeks ago. [AMPAS president] Tom [Sherak] told me what the recommendation to the board was going to be, and that it involved a restructuring of the executive staff. As I understand it, that concept began to emerge as they were conducting the search and talking to candidates and hearing their ideas for the Academy.

Did you have to think about it before you accepted?
I thought about it for a little bit, yes. It was important for me, as I contemplated staying and re-energizing my life here, to make sure I felt comfortable with it. And the idea of a new title and a new job description was appealing.

Bruce has said that this is a crucial time for the Academy, and even agreed with the phrase "crisis point" to describe the future for an organization that relies on the revenue from a single event to fund almost everything it does. Do you agree that this is a difficult time?
I feel like this is a crucial time for the Academy, but I wouldn't describe it as a difficult  time. There are definitely challenges facing us, just as there are those challenges facing every other non-profit organization. But obviously, getting the renewal of our deal with ABC gives us a certain financial security through the end of the decade, which is key.

Do you have priorities you'd like to address in your new position?
Oh, I wouldn't want to jump the gun and talk about anything in particular yet. Dawn and I are going to do a lot of listening for the next few months — listening to people in the Academy, people outside the Academy, lots of different people who'll have input and ideas. We're going to move briskly, but not hurriedly.

The Academy is a tradition-heavy organization, with such a long institutional memory and such strong personalities on the board. Have you given Dawn an idea of what she's in for?
I haven't used that exact phrase. (laughs) But she's a very smart lady.