I doubt that the CAA co-founder enjoyed reading David A. Kaplan’s trenchant profile of him in the issue of Fortune that hits newsstands on Monday. (Here is the teaser link.) “Cast out of Hollywood, not quite a player on Wall Street, never a sensation on Madison Avenue — Michael Ovitz must see Silicon Valley as a final chance to become Michael Ovitz again,” Kaplan writes. He justifies the conclusion with fresh anecdotes showing how the former talent agent and Disney exec has emerged as a “guru” to tech stars including Skype President Tony Bates and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky. While he helps them connect with people in other fields and hone their deal-making skills, “Ovitz coaches them on culture and storytelling. He picks them up when they have bouts of doubt, sometimes inviting them to visit the curated mega-million-dollar collection of contemporary art on display in his 28,000-square-foot home in Beverly Hills.” Kaplan adds that Ovitz’ sushi restaurant, Hamasaku, named a $20 salmon-and-snapper role after Bates. And “the nerds — typically a skeptical, evidence-driven bunch — have been uncharacteristically enchanted by their new ally from the Southland.” No mention in the story about Anita Busch’s suit against him in connection with the 2002 scandal involving private investigator Anthony Pellicano. But Kaplan recalls some stories — including Ovitz’ short-lived partnership with Michael Eisner at Disney and the collapse of Artists Management Group — from the days when he was “the dark lord of Hollywood” who “ruled the town with a gap-toothed smile that belied a taste for blood.” Ovitz didn’t cooperate with Kaplan. And even now, most sources “agreed to be interviewed only on the condition we not use their names. Such is the respect and fear he still inspires.”
Deadline doesn’t delve into showbiz personal lives. What fascinates me is that Mike Ovitz, who was once Hollywood’s Most Powerful Man, now can’t get top billing — or even any billing — in the headline or body or photo captions (3) of this article making the rounds at CAA …
UPDATE: ICM investor Suhail Rizvi and the ICM Board today blew off yesterday’s demands by ICM President Chris Silbermann for a decision and board meeting about the management buyout. The reason cited is that Silbermann has yet to put anything in writing. “I think there’s a lot of concern as to whether his plan is deliverable or executable. There’s nothing to consider until it exists,” one insider tells me. ”He’s been told to put it in writing.” Another of my sources details, “There was this morning an informal board conversation so early and fractious and ill-informed that we’re not calling it a board meeting because there’s not enough information from Silbermann to call it a board meeting.”
So now the onus is on Silbermann. Until then, no one will know whether Rizvi Traverse Management will accept a buyout of its 40% stake in ICM. Or whether the ICM Board will agree to it as well. This all begs the question why Silbermann acted so prematurely. ”Chris went to NY Thursday because he felt he was not getting a serious enough consideration by Suhail. So Chris tried to goose the issue,” one of my sources explains. That, after Silbermann has been threatening for months that he and his clique would leave the agency if he doesn’t get what he wants.
Meanwhile, Silbermann’s management buyout plan remains so ill-formed that he can’t even explain it in detail yet to ICM’s agents. At one recent point, Silbermann confessed to several agents in his camp that they might have to expect a significant pay cut – even a halving of their salaries – if financial backing or an asset-based loan can’t be obtained. That took the agents by surprise, to say the least. Also, Silbermann claimed that ICM Chairman Jeff Berg was on board with this management buyout when, in fact, Berg is neither for or against it since his camp hasn’t been given any details about it yet.
As for Silbermann asking for Michael Ovitz’s advice and help to raise money, it’s well-known in Hollywood that Silbermann and his family have had many personal and professional ties to Ovitz. Also, Wall Street investment bankers involved in studio slate financial deals are confirming that they’ve been approached by Ovitz on Silbermann’s behalf. “Ovitz has been running all over the place trying to raise money for Chris to take over the company,” one sources tells me. But without success, I’m told.
“No one thinks Ovitz can raise $50 million let alone the $200 million necessary to buy out Rizvi. The view of that is ‘good luck’,” one source tells me. That Ovitz is involved at all has even put ICM’s reputation in jeopardy and led to consternation in many Hollywood circles. As one major player whose phone has been ringing off the hook about it summed up the reaction for me, “They think that Mike Ovitz is the biggest doofus on the planet, and Chris Silbermann is the second biggest doofus.”
Another latest development is that
ICM Imploding, Part 2: Chris Silbermann Forces Decision By Largest Investor And Calls ICM Board Meeting Friday; Secretly Relying On Mike Ovitz’s Advice And Help
BREAKING … ICM president Chris Silbermann and ICM Chief Business Development Officer & General Counsel Rick Levy took the red-eye from LA last night and arrived in New York this morning to confront the agency’s investor Suhail Rizvi and demand a management buyout as soon as possible. The pair’s goal is to eliminate the tenpercentery of majority shareholder Rizvi Traverse Management. This follows a 13-day-old demand by Silbermann and Levy to Rizvi to allow the management buyout. At that time, Rizvi said he would make a decision by Christmas. But that was not soon enough for Silbermann and Levy, who today tried to force Rizvi to make his decision sooner. Rizvi told the pair that he would have an answer for them Friday. Also Friday, Silbermann and Levy have demanded an ICM board meeting so they can present the management buyout proposal. At this point, however, sources tell me that the pair have not submitted a written proposal in advance to the board. Whether they can present a cohesive written proposal by Friday remains to be seen. Both Silbermann and Levy are on their way back from New York to LA tonight.
But what is really startling about ICM’s Silbermann right now is that he has involved none other than Michael Ovitz in his plans to take control of the agency. When I first heard about this several months ago, I asked Silbermann and Ovitz separately if they were speaking, planning, or at all involved together in ICM activities. Both Silbermann and Ovitz privately denied it. But I can confirm that Silbermann has been talking almost daily to Ovitz about the management buyout plan, as often as four times a day recently. My sources have seen the phone logs. Insiders tell me that Silbermann went to Ovitz for help in obtaining the necessary financial backing to accomplish the management buyout. I’m told that Ovitz is not interested in putting his own money into the agency at this point, but has been trying to introduce Silbermann to various financial backers. The fact that Silbermann has asked for and is receiving Ovitz’s advice and help in this ICM matter will become a hot-button issue not just inside ICM but around Hollywood in general.
There will be no formal announcement because IMG desperately wants all the damaging talk to quiet down. So the unsavory Michael Ovitz situation was handled in private this week with a formal IMG letter removing him from owner Teddy Forstmann’s advisory board. (One insider tells me that three other board members who backed Ovitz’s alleged takeover attempt were removed as well. But I have no additional confirmation so won’t go into detail.) Thus ignobly ends yet another of Ovitz’s longest personal and professional relationships after he was accused of maneuvering to run and/or own the global management and production giant while 71-year-old Teddy battled brain cancer.
Michael Ovitz And IMG World And Teddy Forstmann’s Brain Cancer: The Real Story, And Also What Ovitz Told Me About It
EXCLUSIVE: First, let me knock down this untrue rumor: I know for certain there is no IMG World board meeting on a conference call or otherwise today to discuss ousting board member Michael Ovitz in response to allegations he’s maneuvering inside the board and with Forstmann, Little & Co investors to run and/or own the global management and production giant. Also, let me say definitively that Mike Dolan is and will remain for some time IMG’s President/COO because he was handpicked by chairman/owner Teddy Forstmann to run the company. The 71-year-old Forstmann is battling brain cancer in a very public and courageous struggle. Forstmann specifically told his board members that, no matter what happened to him, Dolan was to be given a minimum of 2 to 3 years to continue running IMG’s global sports, fashion, entertainment, and media business if not longer. IMG’s board is purely an advisory board since this is a private company (and not like a board of directors of a public corporation) and therefore does not have the power to remove any board member much less Ovitz.
What the real story is, according to my months of reporting, is that IMG management has lawyers working on how to remove Ovitz from the board and prevent him from interfering with Dolan’s running of the company or with Forstmann, Little & Co investors. “This prick was fucking around with management. Is he being put in his place? Yes,” an insider tells me. The allegations against Ovitz include that he is “harassing” management by demanding IMG financial records; pressuring Dolan and senior IMG executives to report to him by trying to set up a so-called executive committee within the board to oversee IMG activities because of Forstmann’s illness and treatment; and approaching Forstmann, Little & Co partners and investors telling them he was interested in buying IMG with the backing of Greg O’Hara, the managing director of One Equity Partners LLC.
(One Equity Partners is a private equity firm that often functions as the leveraged buyout arm of JP Morgan Chase & Co which is a primary investor. O’Hara is becoming quite a controversial character because of the Hollywood company he keeps: besides Ovitz, he is also trying to raise money for embattled Ryan Kavanaugh to buy out his Relativity Media’s investor Elliott Associates. But so far that has been all talk and no action. Same now with Ovitz, who according to my reporting was not anywhere close to securing the money to buy out IMG.)
Recently, according to my sources, Dolan decided, “Ovitz goes or I go.”
“So really the fight is between Mike Ovitz and Mike Dolan, the handpicked guy by Teddy to run the company,” an insider tells me. “Ovitz is interfering with running the company while Teddy is sick. It’s like what Alexander Haig did when Reagan was shot: ‘I’m in charge here.’ That’s the bullshit he’s trying to pull. So now lawyers are advising Mike Dolan.”
Ovitz has strenuously denied to me that he wants to run and/or buy IMG or has attempted to do so. (See Ovitz’s comments below.) “Of course he’s denying it. He’s a scumbag,” a board member tells me. “But the problem for him is that he cast a net so wide looking for backing and money. He’s out of the closet. He’s not even subtle about it. He wants to own the company, and he doesn’t believe in current management. But this is a very healthy company. Throw the motherfucker Ovitz out. Teddy doesn’t need to deal with this shit.”
The allegations against Ovitz might be harder to believe if he didn’t have a history of trying to destabilize companies to further his own ambitions. And Ovitz also has a history of using people’s illnesses to his advantage in business situations. (At the same time, to be fair, Ovitz also has a history of helping people to recover from illness. He is a complex guy…)
Back in early May, I was first tipped by an insider that “Ovitz is trying to become CEO of IMG while Teddy Forstmann has brain cancer”. As a long-time Ovitz watcher, I was naturally intrigued. Especially because Ovitz (despite his protestations to the contrary) has been trying to find his way back into the business spotlight ever
Journalist and attorney Allison Hope Weiner is a special correspondent to Deadline and files this exclusive report:
Although former Hollywood private eye and convicted wiretapper Anthony Pellicano is
UPDATE: The complaint was filed today in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of the law firm Dreier Stein Kahan Browne Woods George and the estate of attorney Marc Dreier for breach of contract against Michael Ovitz and his shell company CKE Associates (aka the “Ovitz Parties”). Pitbull litigator Bryan Freedman of the Century City showbiz law firm Freedman Taitelman writes in the complaint that ”Michael Ovitz once said ‘If you’re not being sued by someone, then you must be doing something wrong.’ It is no secret that Ovitz has been a litigation magnet, attracting numerous high-profile lawsuits … [including] Ovitz was accused of being instrumental in the infamous Anthony Pellicano wire-tapping scandal. That is, former entertainment journalist Anita Busch alleged that Ovitz and other defendants threatened her life. Busch claimed that Ovitz was somehow involved in an eerie incident whereby dead fish and a rose were left on Busch’s windshield along with a cryptic note stating ‘Stop!’ To combat these and other lawsuits, Ovitz retained DSKBWG and litigation heavyweight Eric George. Even though there is no real dispute that DSKBWG’s and George’s legal representation was top notch and that George remained Ovitz’ ‘hired gun’ even after Ovitz and George parted ways with DSKBWG in early 2009, Ovitz conveniently failed to pay DSKBWG over $200,000 for legal services that the firm provided to Ovitz. Staying true to his mantra, Ovitz would apparently rather fight for a ‘litigation discount’ than pay what is rightfully owed.”