Mr. Meyer had a storied Hollywood career. After dropping out of high school at 15, he joined the Marine Corps at 17 and started his movie career at 19 as a messenger for a Hollywood talent agency. After working at William Morris as a television agent, he went on to found the Creative Artists Agency with Michael S. Ovitz and Bill Haber. At CAA, Mr. Meyer represented stars like Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep.
Over the years, he became known in Hollywood for an interest in high-stakes card games, a hobby that ultimately tormented him. “Chronic gambling is an illness and has a lot of stupidity that goes along with it,” Mr. Meyer told The Times in 2007. He said that he had given it up when G.E. acquired the bulk of Universal from the French conglomerate Vivendi in 2003. “That made my decision for me,” he said, alluding to the visibility and management rigor that ownership by the conglomerate would bring with it.
Hired at Universal in 1995 by an earlier owner, Seagram, and its chairman, Edgar Bronfman Jr., Mr. Meyer was initially given the financing to match any competitor. But he squandered much of it on a string of flops that included “Babe: Pig in the City,” “Meet Joe Black” and a “Psycho” remake.
“I had huge financial support from Edgar and failed miserably,” Mr. Meyer told The Times in 2007. Mr. Bronfman slashed the studio’s production pool to $600 million, significantly less than what others were spending at a time when Warner Bros. was establishing its “Harry Potter” franchise and Sony had its “Spider-Man” series underway.
The reduced spending meant smaller films, most of which stopped short of top-level success, even though “The Bourne Identity” and “The Mummy” did well enough to spawn franchises. “King Kong,” a rare big-budget bet in 2005, cost more than $200 million, but ultimately became a winner. Other hits from Mr. Meyer’s tenure included “Erin Brockovich,” “Meet the Parents” and “The Fast and the Furious.”
Unlike many moguls of his generation, Mr. Meyer championed female executives. He was a mentor to Donna Langley, promoting her through the ranks at Universal, where she is now chairman. Mr. Meyer previously helped groom Stacey Snider, who was the studio’s chairman from 1999 to 2006 before she went on to run DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox.
During his 18 years in charge, Mr. Meyer led Universal through four disruptive ownership changes. The company became the property of its current owner, the cable giant Comcast, in 2011.