Bruce Ramer ’58 divides his time between entertainment giants and pro bono causes
It’s a typical Southern California day for Bruce Ramer ’58. The weather is sunny, and he’s on the telephone, driving back to his Rodeo Drive offices in Beverly Hills from a lunch meeting with a Hollywood power broker. Today, he dined at Il Grano in West Los Angeles with writer and director Cameron Crowe. “We schmoozed and got the business done,” said Ramer. “He’s an enormous talent and a dear friend.”
Ramer is sheepish about dropping names. His firm, Gang, Tyre, Ramer & Brown, is well known for its high-profile entertainment and media work. Yet it doesn’t have a website and doesn’t publish a client list. “We’ve never felt the need,” said Ramer.
Word is out, however, about the many notable celebrities among the firm’s clientele, including actors Demi Moore and Ben Stiller and directors Clint Eastwood and Robert Zemeckis. Director Steven Spielberg is one of Ramer’s long-standing clients: Ramer has represented the director of “Jaws,” “E.T.” and “Schindler’s List” for four decades. And Ramer boasts the dubious distinction of being the namesake of “Bruce,” the mechanical shark used to terrify moviegoers in “Jaws.”
It may be the ultimate lawyer joke to name a 3-ton, 25-foot shark after an attorney. But Ramer insists that there are good parts to a shark, too, and that it is certainly those qualities that he is named for. “They never paid me a royalty—that’s all I know,” he said.
The firm represents Spielberg and DreamWorks in complex deals for feature films and television. These include a financing deal with Reliance ADA Group and a battery of banks, led by J.P. Morgan, and a distribution deal with Walt Disney Co. The firm provided counsel on all aspects of the transaction, from the distribution agreement with Disney to the employment agreements and financing.
There is no one part of entertainment law Ramer enjoys best. He savors the variety of the deals and the relationships with his clients. “And I adore, love and trust my partners,” he said of his dozen colleagues at the firm.
Ramer may be the only member of the council on foreign relations to be the namesake of a mechanical shark
Ramer’s involvement in nonprofit work is nearly as deep as his client list. George W. Bush appointed him to the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 2008. He serves on the board of trustees of the University of Southern California in addition to sitting on the board of councilors of the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, the USC Gould School of Law, and the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education.
He is the former president of the American Jewish Committee and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and he sits on the Pacific Council on International Policy. His interest in diplomacy stretches back to his undergraduate days at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.
“Foreign affairs and diplomacy are both issues of concern to me as an American and as a Jew,” Ramer said. In 2000, while president of the AJC, he testified before Congress against the Secret Evidence Repeal Act, arguing that its proposed ban on the use of classified information in immigration proceedings failed to draw a balance between due process concerns and national security interests. He asserted that the bill would have softened America’s protections against terrorism, and the AJC strongly opposed it. After Sept. 11, he said, the bill “fell off the desk.” Homeland security issues still concern Ramer, and he serves on the Homeland Security Advisory Council of Los Angeles County.
Ramer either hasn’t calculated or won’t admit to how much time he spends on his nonprofit involvements versus his law firm work. “That’s a state secret, because I don’t want my partners to know,” he said. “It gives me a great sense of satisfaction. I find it stimulating, and I really believe it energizes my professional work.”
At 76, Ramer gives no thought to retiring. “I truly enjoy it all. I have from day one,” Ramer said. “It’s trite, but it’s true. I love what I do, and I do what I love. That’s the way it’s been. Do I look forward to the challenge of every day? Yes.”