John F Cooke, who last week was named the new chief executive officer and national excutive director of the US actors union Screen Actors Guild (SAG), has walked away from the job.

Cooke made his decision after receipt of a letter from nine members of the SAG board stating that the naming of Cooke as CEO was not in accordance with the SAG constitution and that the title and authority issues needed to be addressed by the full board and debated. The letter came after the unanimous vote of the board of directors that Cooke should be appointed.

Cooke signed his contract with SAG and said that the contract specified certain authority and responsibilities traditionally held by a person with the CEO title. In a statement yesterday, he said that it was made clear prior to the special SAG Board meeting to those negotiating for SAG that the negotiated contract should be approved as it stood or not at all. "It would be inappropriate for me to accept the Screen Actors Guild position without clear authority to act on all the issues that are before the SAG management and organization," said Cooke. "To search for a leader without the ability to give him or her clear CEO authority as well as a clear mandate is a recipe for failure," he added.

"I have no hard feelings toward anyone in this matter," he said. "I wish nothing but the best for SAG."