Producer Joel Silver paid $1.7 million to the Wynn Casino in Las Vegas to cover Ron Meyer’s gambling debt in July 2014, multiple sources confirmed to Variety.
At the time, Meyer was the vice chairman of NBCUniversal and Silver — his close friend — had a distribution deal with the studio. A few months earlier, Silver had received a $4 million advance from NBCUniversal on his cut of the proceeds from “Non-Stop,” an action film starring Liam Neeson.
The casino transaction has come to the attention of NBCUniversal within the last two weeks, prompting the studio to ask attorney Daniel Petrocelli to look into it, according to a source who spoke to Petrocelli about the matter.
The payment from Silver was specifically designated to pay off Meyer’s marker at the casino, according to a source who viewed an email confirming the transaction.
Anthony Pellicano, the former private investigator who has been working for Silver as a negotiator, confirmed to Variety that Silver made the payment to the casino on Meyer’s behalf. He also confirmed the exact amount of the payment: $1,736,000. But he said the payment was unrelated to Silver’s $4 million advance on earnings from “Non-Stop.”
“One had nothing to do with the other,” Pellicano said. “The amount of money that Joel Silver sent to the Wynn Casino did not come from Joel Silver and had nothing to do with his advance.”
Pellicano said the funds came to Silver from a third party whom he declined to name, and that Silver merely relayed the funds to the casino. He said the third party had no connection to NBCUniversal. He did not explain why Silver would agree to serve as a pass-through for the funds.
“There’s a big long story with all of this that I’m not going to tell you,” Pellicano said. “There’s other things going on. It’s a matter of convenience. It’s no sinister thing. It’s simple. It’s an accommodation. That’s all.”
Meyer and NBCUniversal declined to comment on the story. Petrocelli, an outside litigator at O’Melveny and Myers, responded on the company’s behalf, though he declined to discuss the situation.
“I represent NBCUniversal in a variety of matters, and I’m not going to discuss any specific one,” Petrocelli said.
“Non-Stop” was the first film produced under Silver’s NBCUniversal deal. Silver produced the film in conjunction with StudioCanal, and it was released in February 2014. That month, NBCUniversal fronted Silver the $4 million as an advance against his backend profits. The film went on to gross $222 million worldwide.
According to Pellicano, NBCUniversal ended up recouping about three-quarters of the advance, leaving about $1 million that was not recovered.
Meyer was one of the most powerful figures in Hollywood until resigning last August amid a sex scandal. He was a co-founder of Creative Artists Agency and worked at NBCUniversal for 25 years.
His gambling issues have been documented before, most recently in “Powerhouse,” the 2017 book chronicling the history of CAA. Author James Andrew Miller wrote that Meyer repeatedly “faced huge daunting debts, once in the hole for several million dollars.” The book also reports that Ray Stark, the legendary independent producer who died in 2004, once lent Meyer money to pay off a debt.