Alan Hirschfield

  Dead Famous

Former Columbia Pictures chief executive, Alan James Hirschfield died January 15, 2015; he was President of Norman Hirschfield & Company since 2000.

Alan James Hirschfield was born in New York on Oct. 10, 1935, to Norman and Betty Hirschfield.

Norman Hirschfield held various positions on Wall Street, including bond trader, and was a close friend and business associate of Charles Allen Jr., who founded the investment firm Allen & Company.

In 1938, Alan, then 3, moved with his family to Oklahoma City, where his father was involved with natural gas operations and scouted business opportunities for Allen & Company.

After graduating from the University of Oklahoma, the younger Mr. Hirschfield received a master’s degree from the Harvard Business School and went to work for the Allen family.

In an era when studio executives frequently played musical chairs, Mr. Hirschfield found yet another seat: He was made chief executive of Fox by its principal owner, Marvin Davis, in 1981.

He resigned in 1984, making way for Barry Diller, who arrived from Paramount Pictures, and shifted his own attention to banking. By 1991, Mr. Hirschfield was working for the securities firm Wertheim Shroder & Company.

The history of Columbia TriStar Motion Pictures may be traced through the founding of Columbia Pictures Entertainment Inc., which was incorporated in 1924 as Columbia Pictures Corporation.

Hollywood in the 1920s was a booming entertainment factory. As the film industry began to realize its vast potential, ornate moviehouses were erected throughout American cities and towns, and cinema became the nation’s new favorite pastime. Hollywood’s production studios grew rapidly and opportunities for filmmakers abounded.

The Great Depression had different effects on different studios. Columbia, which did not have the theater holdings the Big Five had, didn’t feel the impact of empty theater seats in the early 1930s. And when theater attendance picked up, Columbia found it had one very special asset-Frank Capra.

Hirschfield held the top post at Columbia from 1973 to 1978, helping make classic films like “Taxi Driver” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

He was ousted at Columbia after taking a moral stand against the reinstatement of David Begelman, who had embezzled more than $61,000.

He was chairman of Twentieth Century Fox from 1982 to 1986 and then worked as a consultant for several years for a variety of companies, including Warner Communications.

Throughout the 1990s, Hirschfield worked as an investment banker, co-CEO of Financial News Network and co-CEO of Data Broadcasting Corp.

From April 2004 until July 2013, he served as a director of Leucadia National Corp. (NYSE), a holding company engaged in various operating and investing activities.

Mr. Hirschfield served as Vice Chairman of the Board of Cantel from 1988 until March 2009.

He has managerial experience in the media and entertainment sector, as well as in investment banking and real estate. This experience, together with his twenty-eight years of service as a director of Cantel, qualifies him to serve on the Board.

He leaves behind a wife and his son Scott; survivors also include a daughter, Laura Hirschfield; another son, Marc; and six grandchildren.