Stephen A. Unger

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Stephen A. Unger
Stephen A Unger.jpg
c. 1986
Born (1946-05-31) May 31, 1946 (age 72)

Stephen A. Unger (born May 31, 1946) is a "leading executive recruiter"[1] who served as managing partner of the media and entertainment divisions at the three largest executive search firms in the world.[2][3] From 2004–2005 he wrote a regular weekly column on leadership for the Daily Variety,[4] a trade publication considered to be the "Bible of Show Business."[5]

Son of award-winning film producer, distributor and exhibitor Oliver A. Unger, Stephen Unger was born in New York City, and lived there until age 13 when he and his family moved to Beverly Hills, California. He graduated from Beverly Hills High School in 1963. Unger graduated from Syracuse University (Maxwell School) in 1967 and attended New York University’s Graduate Institute of Film and Television. He then lived and worked in various countries outside the United States over ten years. Unger speaks six languages:[6] English, French, Spanish, Italian, German and Portuguese.

In 1971, he co-founded,[7] built, owned and operated Foster's Hollywood - Spain’s first American-food/Hollywood-themed restaurants. He and his partners sold the restaurant chain in 1976.[8] As of 2009, Foster's Hollywood is the 11th largest franchise restaurant chain in Europe[9] with over 140 restaurants in Spain.[10]

Unger served as Associate Producer[11] on the Emmy Award-winning telefeature Verna: USO GIRL, starring Sissy Spacek, William Hurt and Howard Da Silva. Subsequently, Unger held a number of senior corporate positions, including Vice President, International Sales and Acquisitions of Universal Pictures (NBC Universal);[12] Vice President, International Distribution of CBS Theatrical Films (CBS, Inc.);[13] and Senior Vice President, International Sales of Filmways Pictures, Inc. (later absorbed into MGM).[14]

In 1988, Unger became an executive recruiter and joined Korn/Ferry International, where he served as a Partner and a Managing Director of its Worldwide Entertainment and Communications Practice.[15] He remained there until 1991 when he joined Spencer Stuart as a Partner and Managing Director of its Worldwide Entertainment and Communications Practice.[16][17] In 1998, Unger joined Heidrick & Struggles’ Global Media and Entertainment Practice as Managing Partner,[18] and news of his own recruitment to the firm was reported on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.[19] In 2003, he started KSMU LLC,[20] a boutique executive search firm.

Leonard Armato, longtime Association of Volleyball Professionals Commissioner, described Unger "as one of the top people in sports and entertainment as far as searching for top executives,"[21] and he has been recognized by Sporting News' 14-member panel of executives and editors[22] in their annual "100 Most Powerful" list, including #63 in 2001.[23] He has also been named #65 on CableFAX Magazine's “100 Most Influential in Cable” List.[24]

Unger led the recruitment search for Michael Wolf in his move from Booz-Allen to McKinsey & Company in 2001, which "shook up the industry."[25] He has been quoted in the media regarding senior executive searches,[26][27] succession plans,[28][29] remuneration,[30][31] retention,[32] and contract negotiations,[33] as well as market trends[34] and suggestions for terminated employees.[35] He has been invited to speak as a guest lecturer at a number of major universities, including Stanford[36] and UCLA.[12]

His wife of over 30 years is Kathleen S. M. Unger, M.B.A.,[24] J.D.[37] Mrs. Unger is Of Counsel at the law firm Freeman, Freeman & Smiley[38] as well as President & Chief Executive Officer of the non-profit organization VoteRiders.[39]


  1. ^ Unger, Stephen. "Where sports meet entertainment". Daily Variety. Retrieved 2017-09-22.
  2. ^ Verrier, Richard (2005-01-01). "Hollywood's new power brokers". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
  3. ^ "Top executive search firms" (PDF). Workforce Management. Retrieved 2009-04-23.
  4. ^ "Stephen Unger". Daily Variety. Retrieved 2009-08-27.
  5. ^ Besas, Peter (2000). Inside "Variety," The Story of the Bible of Show Business [1905-1987]. ARS Millenii. ISBN 84-930211-5-6.
  6. ^ Hollingsworth, Lauren (1998-05-25). "Unger Takes Charge of Heidrick Entertainment Practice". Los Angeles Business Journal. Unger himself speaks six languages, and has lived and worked overseas, as well as in the U.S.
  7. ^ Hulse, Jerry (1973-09-23). "A Star is Born-Spanish Burgers a la Hollywood". LA Times.
  8. ^ "Historia de Éxito: Foster's Hollywood, mezcla del genuino sabor americano y la magia del cine". Retrieved 2009-03-10.
  9. ^ "Franchise Europe Top 500". Retrieved 2009-08-27.
  10. ^ "La auténtica parrilla americana en España". Retrieved 2009-08-27.
  11. ^ "Verna: USO Girl". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-17.
  12. ^ a b "Executive Search Executive Stephen Unger Profiles the Entertainment Industry for Students at The Anderson School at UCLA". Retrieved 2009-03-09.
  13. ^ Hollingsworth, Lauren (1998-05-25). "Unger Takes Charge of Heidrick Entertainment Practice". Los Angeles Business Journal.
  14. ^ "Heads will Stroll". Channel 21 International. October 1998. pp. 116–117.
  15. ^ Stremfel, Michael (1989-12-11). "It's a wide, wide world for Hollywood executives". Los Angeles Business Journal.
  16. ^ Ginsberg, Steve (1992-10-10). "Son in law still may rise but studios tilt now towards pros". Los Angeles Business Journal.
  17. ^ Citron, Alan (1993-12-17). "GATT: Wasserman Wins, Valenti Loses". LA Times.
  18. ^ Littleton, Cynthia (1998-05-13). "Unger joins Heidrick". Daily Variety. p. 5. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
  19. ^ "Star Wars: Headhunting firms angle for each others' top recruiters". Wall Street Journal. 1998-05-12. p. A1.
  20. ^ Verrier, Richard (2004-12-25). "Recruiters Hold Star Power". LA Times.
  21. ^ Weil, Dan (2000-06-12). "Sports headhunting on rise". Sports Business Journal. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
  22. ^ "What is Power". Sporting News. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
  23. ^ "100 Most Powerful". Sporting News. Retrieved 2009-03-09.
  24. ^ a b "Executive Search Executive Stephen Unger Profiles the Entertainment Industry for Students at The Anderson School at UCLA". Retrieved 2009-08-27.
  25. ^ Lieberman, Allyson (2001-03-09). "Michael Wolf quits Booz-Allen for McKinsey". New York Post. Industry sources say Wolf resigned from Booz-Allen yesterday after he was aggressively pursued by McKinsey & Co. The search was led by Steve Unger of Heidrick & Struggles.
  26. ^ Brennan, Judith (1999-01-17). "Culture Zone; Hollywood Roulette". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
  27. ^ Gaither, Chris (2005-11-14). "Can Yahoo Sign On to Hollywood". LA Times. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
  28. ^ Girion, Lisa (2000-12-03). "GE Succession a Leadership Lesson". LA Times. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
  29. ^ Ginsberg, Steve (1992-10-19). "Son in law still may rise but studios tilt now towards pros". Los Angeles Business Journal.
  30. ^ Leonhardt, David (2000-03-23). "Start-Ups Raise Pay and Offer Options as Candidates Dwindle". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
  31. ^ Trigoboff, Dan (1999-12-13). "Media's big game: headhunting". Broadcasting & Cable. pp. 50–58.
  32. ^ Gunther, Marc (2002-01-07). "Has Eisner Lost the Disney Magic? The company has been walloped by terror and recession. But its problems start at the top". Fortune Magazine. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
  33. ^ Eller, Claudia (1998-11-19). "In Hollywood, it's Take My Job...Please". LA Times. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
  34. ^ Capell, Perri (2002-02-27). "Entertainment Companies Seek Stars for Top Roles". Wall Street Journal.
  35. ^ Loeb, Marshall (1996-01-15). "What to do if you Get Fired". Fortune Magazine. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
  36. ^ "The Future of Content". Stanford Graduate School of Business. 2003-04-05. p. 22.
  37. ^ "State Bar of California". Retrieved 2009-08-28.
  38. ^ "Kathleen Unger, Of Counsel". Retrieved 2012-06-24.
  39. ^ "VoteRiders". Retrieved 2012-06-24.