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STUDIO WORKERS FEAR FOR JOBS.

Byline: Chip Jacobs and Lee Condon Daily News Staff Writers

Federal regulators may have blessed Time Warner's buyout of Turner Broadcasting System, but actor Egypt Thompson wasn't jumping for joy over the $6.8 billion deal.

Before the two conglomerates decided to form the world's biggest media and entertainment concern, there was more job potential out there, said Thompson, who works on the Warner Bros. sitcom, ``Hangin' With Mr. Cooper.''

Now the workplace plot may be rewritten.

``There (was) a chance for more competition,'' Thompson said Thursday. ``Turner is already an established company.''

With the Federal Trade Commission's decision to grant its modified approval to the acquisition, show business was abuzz over merger mania - again. This go-round, however, had special resonance, given Warner's longtime presence in Burbank, and Turner's control of New Line Cinema in West Los Angeles and Hollywood-based Hanna-Barbera.

Studio executives declined to comment about how the deal would shake out locally. Officially, they said it was premature to speculate whether layoffs, relocations or project changes were in the offing.

``The deal is not final until it's voted on by shareholders,'' said Time Warner spokesman Ed Adler. ``Nothing has been finalized.''

Behind the scenes, though, there was talk of the dreaded D-word: downsizing.

``People I know at Hanna-Barbera are in a panic about losing their job,'' said one person who used to be associated with the company that produced ``The Flintstones,'' ``Jetsons'' and other name-plate cartoons. ``It's a small independent company and you felt like you were part of the family. People that work there (now) are concerned.''

Others, however, suggested that the family atmosphere might keep Warner jobs intact.

Still, Denzil Smith, an employee of the Walt Disney Co. and veteran of industry mergers, said the uncertainty of melding two companies with similar operations creates anxiety.

``When they get bigger, you feel smaller,'' said Smith. ``Psychologically, it's very depressing. You feel less significant.''

The merger comes at a time when the entertainment business is rebounding strongly.

The film and television industry has added 16,000 jobs this year, more than any other sector, said Jack Kyser, chief economist of Los Angeles County's Economic Development Corp.

Altogether, 230,000 people work in these businesses - even after the corporate changes that have swept through MCA Inc. and other entertainment companies in recent years.

Kyser said the smaller companies owned by Time Warner and Turner, such as New Line Cinema, could be targeted for cutbacks, sale or elimination because of duplication.

``It's obvious you have all these production activities and overhead and they are going to want to wring maximum efficiencies out of this merger,'' he said. ``Many of the smaller independent film companies - New Line, Castle Rock - are where the heavy sweating is going on.''

Castle Rock President Martin Shafer told Bloomberg Business News that the Turner property's film and television unit is in talks to be acquired by a group led by Seagram Co.'s MCA Inc. or by Sony Corp.

The MCA group includes General Electric Co.'s NBC network and Australian television operator Seven Network Ltd., said Shafer, who declined to say when talks might conclude or how much is being offered.

Shafer also said Turner could choose to keep Castle Rock after its acquisition by Time Warner.

``I don't mean to sound flip, but anything could happen,'' he said.

Analyst Chris Dixon of PaineWebber Inc. valued Castle Rock at more than $250 million in June.

Rob Friedman, a spokesman for Warner's film division, said there were no layoff jitters at his studio, which is riding a string of blockbusters, including ``Twister'' and ``Tin Cup,'' that have raked in more than $500 billion this summer.

``We're thrilled,'' he said of the acquisition.

Turner officials did not return phone calls.

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Photo

PHOTO The merger worries Warner Studios actors Egypt Thomps on, left, Andre Thompson and Freemesha Jones.

Tom Mendoza/Daily News
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Sep 13, 1996
Words:646
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