UPDATES Shame On Mike Ovitz…
This morning, Mike Ovitz tried to go through a NYC power publicist (Steven Rubenstein, who doesn’t rep him) to get back to me. But I needed to hear the words directly from MO’s mouth. So he just phoned me from a plane to explain why he was a no-show at Mike Rosenfeld Sr’s memorial service yesterday when the other CAA founding partners were in attendance:
“I’m calling you for a simple reason. I feel horrible. I swear to God I had no idea Mike passed away until someone read me your blog an hour ago. I had no idea. I’m mostly in New York. I don’t read the LA Times or the trades anymore. I only read your blog. (My hat’s off to you…).
“I know the guys [his 5 former CAA partners] have had issues with me. But between them and the current partners I didn’t hear one word, not even from their assistants. When Ray [Kurtzman] died, I wasn’t in the country. And when Mike died, I was in the Caribbean. But I was here in Los Angeles when the memorial took place and of course I would have gone. But no one had the courtesy to tell me about it. Nobody called me. Forget if they like me or don’t like me, it was common decency. This was a guy I spent 20 hours a day with. Call me, send me an email, I’m the most reachable guy on the planet.
“I swear to you no one invited me to something where hundreds of people
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UPDATES Mike Ovitz Explains: “Nobody Called Me”
Today was the memorial service for Mike Rosenfeld Sr, the William Morris agent who became one of the five founders of Creative Artists Agency and then moved to Sonoma County before passing away on March 25th. All of the other original partners were there given the advance notice: Ron Meyer, Bill Haber, and Roland Perkins. But Mike Ovitz was a no-show. *2ND UPDATE: He told people he was out of town, supposedly the Caribbean, when Rosenfeld died. But he was in Los Angeles the day of the memorial service.* (He also didn’t attend longtime CAA consigliare Ray Kurtzman’s funeral back in 2007.) Rosenfeld Sr died after a long illness. He was 75. No doubt you know one of his 4 children, Michael Rosenfeld Jr, who’s a senior agent at CAA.
Sandy Litvack used to be one of Michael Eisner’s most trusted advisers at the Walt Disney Co. He’s now one of the U.S. government’s. That’s because the Justice Department has hired the Century City lawyer with Hogan & Hartson as an outside consultant on a possible federal antitrust challenge to Google’s proposed partnership with Yahoo. (Among other things, there are fears it could drive up ad rates.) Litvack was antitrust boss under President Jimmy Carter, then in 1991 joined Disney where his principal job after the death of Frank Wells was to follow Eisner around with a shovel. After leaving Disney when Eisner did, Litvack headed a commission created by Congress to consider changes to U.S. antitrust law. In 2004, Litvack found himself a star witness in that lawsuit brought by shareholders against Disney and Michael Ovitz over the ex-agent’s brief but disastrous tenure. But Litvack’s absurdist trial testimony defending Eisner and Ovitz stretched the truth by alot. It’s too bad that what happens in Hollywood stays in Hollywood.
My sources within the Hollywood legal community tell me that producer Cathy Schulman, who was sued by Michael Ovitz and at one point facing a terrifying $4 million judgment, has won her appeal and now a new arbitration so that she owes the Hollywood has-been nothing. Nada. Zilch. I don’t have many details because there’s a gag order on all the parties involved. But Ovitz started this 7 years ago, and Schulman finished it. She doesn’t win anything per se, but Ovitz does owe her attorneys fees for those appeals. At one point, Ovitz, whose main occupation these days seems to be bullying people with lawsuits, virtually bankrupted Cathy while she defended herself. But she’s an incredible story of perseverance and kept at it in the courts and in the movie business, helping produce 2006 Oscar-winner Crash and now making films as president of Mandalay Pictures. Her latest lawyer Mark Geragos took over Schulman’s case and finally brought the whole nightmare to an end. First, that $4 million judgment was reversed on appeal. Then a redo arbitration decided that Schulman wasn’t liable for the demise of Ovitz’s ill-conceived management and production company AMG or its film division Artists Picture Group. I’m told this is the end of the legal road for Mike. It’s also finally over for Cathy.
When I last left this litigious twosome, a judge had just dismissed billionaire Ron Burkle’s lawsuit against Michael Ovitz after ruling that the duo had been more friends than business partners on some Internet ventures. Which gives new meaning to the term “frenemies” considering the pair absolutely and positively loathe each other now. But Ovitz being Ovitz, the Hollywood has-been pressed on with his multimillion-dollar countersuit against Burkle seemingly to punish the supermarket magnate for dragging him into court in the first place. (Hey, what else has Mike got to do? Not much, especially after the Pellicano trial. Unless you count trying to peddle his last remaining client Tom Clancy around the world. And that takes, what, two minutes a week?) Ovitz was pissed he had paid all those fat legal fees defending himself. But the scheduled August 4th trial would have cost him even more billable hours. So last weekend Ovitz and Burkle came to an agreement whereby Ovitz dropped his countersuit, Burkle dropped his appeal, and the last 3 years of litigation ended.
Judge Dismisses Burkle Suit Against Ovitz
There’s A Mike Sucker Born Every Minute
Burkle vs Ovitz: Together Again In Court
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This is a photo of Michael Ovitz arriving at Camp Allen. Look closely at his T-shirt. (FYI, I reported three weeks ago about his renting the I.M. Pei building, the ex-home of CAA, to Sony BMG. Embarrassing for Variety to be so late on this…):
I keep forgetting to report that the old CAA building designed by I.M. Pei, complete with its Roy Lichtenstein mural, is back in the hands of Michael Ovitz. Both his ex-partners Ron Meyer and Bill Haber recently sold to him their financial interests in the Beverly Hills landmark at the corner of Little Santa Monica and Wilshire Blvds about the same time that CAA stopped paying on the old lease. (Remember, I posted way back when that CAA moved to Century City despite still owing rent on the Pei digs. Talk about cash flow problems…) Ovitz, who personally brown-nosed Pei to design the monument to agency power, was desperate to gain sole custody. Now that Ovitz has the edifice back, I hear he’s probably leasing office space to Sony BMG Music. My favorite story about the building is when Ovitz had a time-lapse camera mounted in the parking lot of Budget Rent-a-Car directly across the street from the construction site to film the step-by-step progress of the headquarters and make a movie of the building’s birth. One of CAA’s star directors, Joel Schumacher, even agreed to direct with famed Billy Weber to edit and no less than John Williams to score. When news of the film project swept through the entertainment community shortly before CAA was to move into the building on July 28th, 1989, the jokes came fast and furious. So did the jibes, the most brutal of which was that I.M. Pei had unwittingly become “the Albert Speer of Hollywood.” The movie idea was dropped.
Here is DHD/LA Weekly trial correspondent Steven Mikulan’s wrap-up: “Prosecutor Daniel Saunders got the last word in during the government rebuttal argument. Saunders, who’d been lumbered during his closing argument by the need to enumerate most of the 78 counts involved in the RICO case, got to unload on the five defendants and their attorneys. He upbraided the defense for diverting attention away from the accused to the case’s many unindicted or plea-bargained witnesses, noting that to try to fix the crimes’ responsibility on such lesser actors was “like going after the johns and not the prostitutes, the junkies and not the dealers.” After 90 minutes, Saunders concluded by declaring, “This case is not about Hollywood. It’s not about Sylvester Stallone or Keith Carradine. It’s not even about Brad Grey or Michael Ovitz . . . This is a case about people who believed the justice system could be bought with a $25,000 nonrefundable retainer.”
So the trial that would not end is finally ending with closing arguments. Not much of a Hollywood angle to report, except for the lawyer for LAPD Sgt Mark Arneson, who is accused of doing all those illegal law enforcement database investigations. I’ve been reading the coverage – anxiously awaiting the verdict on this end! ”It makes no sense that Mr. Ovitz a pillar of the Hollywood community would hire Mr. Pellicano to put a fish on a car of a reporter. If he had a problem with The New York Times, he would just call the editor.”
Meanwhile, jailed Hollywood P.I. Anthony Pellicano, who is defending himself, spoke for a mere 16 minutes — and mostly rambled.
About Pellicano’s closing argument, DHD/LA Weekly trial correspondent Steven Mikulan wrote: “Pellicano had told Judge Dale Fischer that he needed somewhere between an hour to an hour and a half to complete his speech to the jury, but he gave himself the hook after only 16 minutes. Appearing relaxed, affable and confident, Pellicano nevertheless gave a rambling dissertation on the roles of the jury and prosecutor. Jurors stared at him alertly but with opaque expressions.
“Pellicano has made much of how he detests snitches and ‘rats’, and certainly the government’s dance card was packed with witnesses who were either cooperating with prosecutors for lesser sentences in cases related to Pellicano’s, or who had completely dodged indictments in exchange for their testimony about Pellicano’s alleged wiretapping activities.
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Today the retired FBI agent who led the Pellicano investigation testified that he believed Ovitz’s hiring of the Hollywood private-eye led to that June 2002 fish-rose-&-note warning left on Anita Busch’s Audi. But Stan Ornellas stopped short of saying Ovitz specifically ordered the June 2002 threat against the freelance journalist who had co-written with staff writer Bernie Weinraub a series of stories exposing trouble within Ovitz’s management and production company AMG that spring. And, on cross-examination, the attorney for LAPD Sgt Mark Arneson asked: “Is it possible Mr. Ovitz hired Mr. Pellicano … but had nothing to do with the threats?” To which Ornellas replied, “Yes.”
Ornellas also testified that he interviewed Ovitz after Pellicano’s arrest in November 2002, and that Ovitz mentioned Busch’s name. The G-man also testified that the FBI retrieved a recorded telephone call of Pellicano speaking with Meyer after the FBI raided the P.I.’s West Hollywood office on Nov. 21, 2002. According to Ornellas, Pellicano said on the recording that Ovitz was at the heart of his legal problems. Ornellas also testified that Pellicano demanded $20,000 per month from Ovitz. Ovitz has not been charged with any wrongdoing in the Pellicano trial. (See my previous: Ovitz Testifies Busch/Weinraub NYT Articles “Wildly Embarrassing”)
2ND UPDATE: Michael Ovitz on the witness stand at the Pellicano trial today pointed an accusatory finger at his former friend and CAA partner Ron Meyer, now president/COO of Universal Studios, and at his longtime nemesis David Geffen, the billionaire co-founder of DreamWorks. Ovitz testified that he suspected they were the sources behind those co-bylined New York Times articles damaging to him and his AMG business written in 2002 by freelance writer Anita Busch and staff writer Bernie Weinraub. So he says he hired Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano and paid him $75,000 to find out.
Ovitz: I called him because I knew he was sourcing the articles. Not the people writing the articles. He knew a substantial number of people in the West Los Angeles business community. He was working with people I was having problems with — Ron Meyer, David Geffen.
Cross-Examination by Chad Hummel, the attorney for defendant LAPD Sgt Mark Arneson: Did you believe these two individuals were sourcing the articles?
Ovitz: I did.
Hummel: What did you want to know?
Ovitz: When I was going to be ambushed. When the other shoe was going to drop… He told me I had a huge problem with Ron Meyer.
On the subject of Anita Busch:
Hummel: Did he [Pellicano] give you embarrassing information about Anita Busch?
Ovitz: No. He was rather dismissive of her.
Hummel: Did he give you embarrassing information about Bernard Weinraub?
Hummel: Did you ever hire Mr. Pellicano to put a fish on Anita
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I’m told he showed up at the Roybal federal building although his lawyer shooed away reporters. No, he didn’t take the witness stand today and was left cooling his heels. Supposedly, Mike testifies tomorrow. Speaking of the former CAA co-founder and fired Walt Disney Co president, he was the butt of a joke today at a media breakfast hosted by Syracuse’s Newhouse School of Communications, in conjunction with The New Yorker and Condé Nast, as part of the “Newhouse School in New York” series. Given that the keynote speaker was Walt Disney Co CEO Bob Iger, host Ken Auletta remarked, ”I haven’t seen this many smiling ABC faces since Michael Ovitz left.” Gee, and I still remember when the CEO pornster Auletta used to fall all over himself genuflecting to MO like everybody else in the media…
That published report claiming CAA partners Bryan Lourd and Kevin Huvane “may file a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Michael Ovitz — charging that, among other things, he hired infamous private eye Anthony Pellicano to spy on them” is bullshit. Seriously, you’d have to know nothing about Hollywood to think anyone at CAA would go to court over that, even though it would inconvenience Ovitz a tad.
UPDATE: We all know the HBH part of flackery PMK-HBH has a rich and varied history of lying to journalists. Well, CEO Simon Halls told me this week — and made a point about going on the record about it — that those rumors about layoffs at HIS PR firm are a bunch of hooey. “There are no layoffs and no one has been let go,” Hall stressed. ”We’re actually having a really good year even with the bumps, like the strike. In fact, it’s on track to be our best year yet.” But sources are still insisting to me today layoffs are occurring.
(I’ll keep adding to this post as the day — and rumor mill — progresses…)
While Michael Ovitz’s name keeps coming up repeatedly in the ongoing Pellicano trial (though he’s charged with no wrongdoing), he’s also been the subject of an ongoing multimillion dollar lawsuit brought by his one-time Internet partner, billionaire investor Ron Burkle. But yesterday Ovitz scored a big victory when that lawsuit by Burkle alleging that the co-founder of CAA and fired Walt Disney Co. president broke a business agreement was dismissed yesterday by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Soussan Bruguera. She decided that the men never had a formal partnership and, if anything, had more of a “friendship that soured” than a business relationship, and that terms of their oral agreement were too vague to enforce. Burkle’s attorney said he will appeal Bruguera’s decision to grant Ovitz’s motion. Meanwhile, Ovitz’s counter-suit against Burkle is still on, and a trial date has been set for April 28. Nevertheless, Burkle managed through the long and winding lawsuit to muddy Ovitz’s reputation, already tarnished by his many business failures. Burkle filed the complaint back in February 2005, claiming the two made a verbal agreement in the 1990s to jointly combine “their skill, money and knowledge” on investments but alleging that Ovitz breached their oral pact repeatedly. There’s now a long list of Ovitz’s former business partners from Hollywood, Broadway, Wall Street, Madison Avenue and sports (to name just a few areas) who despise him now.
Poor Bryan Lourd and Kevin Huvane had to cool their heels all morning inside the Roybal federal building. A place near the coffee shop substituted as a Green Room for the Pellicano Trial. Even the government realized this was costing CAA a fortune. Around 12:30 PM, the feds told U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer that the two agency partners needed to go back to work. So an ex-FBI guy already on the witness stand was bumped for them. (How nice to know that federal trials are run like Craft.)
At 12:35 PM, Huvane appeared on the stand first. Asked about the events surrounding August 10th, 2001, since that’s when he was investigated in law enforcement databases, the CAA managing director pointed the finger at Michael Ovitz. “He founded a rival company. We had a dispute with him and decided not to do business with him.” Actually, Lourd and Huvane were mentioned in Footnote #11 of the government’s trial memo on the Pellicano case because “recovered from Pellicano’s computers were scanned computer printouts of DMV and criminal history information for Bryan Lourd and Kevin Huvane bearing [LAPD Sgt Mark Arneson’s name and a date of August 10th, 2001, which comports with the date when Arneson conducted database inquiries on these individuals”. No context was provided. But CAA had issued an “it’s Ovitz or us” ultimatum to Hollywood in 1999 after Michael Ovitz broke his promise not to … Read More »
Since Michael Ovitz is in the news right now courtesy of the Pellicano trial, I thought this Rush & Molloy item might amuse: Lunching at that NYC media feeding trough Michael’s, the one-time showbiz power (now pariah) was introduced to Tab Turner, a top Arkansas product-liability lawyer who filed and won a famous class action lawsuit against Ford that’s being made into a movie. So Ovitz handed Turner a $1 bill and said, “You’re now on retainer, and you can’t sue me.” Turner handed the buck back to Ovitz, who handed it to Turner, who handed it to Ovitz, who finally put it back into his pocket. This is the same gimmick Ovitz used on Bert Fields 30 years ago. Some people never change.
5:30 PM: Today, accused Hollywood P.I. Anthony Pellicano finally gave the court his version of what this case is all about. And if anyone was expecting some impassioned defense of himself, or surprise explanation for his prosecution, there was none. There was, in fact, very little forthcoming from him, period. During a stumbling 10-minute opening statement, Pellicano didn’t present what lawyers consider a coherent theory for his defense. He told jurors that clients would want to hire him not for what he couldn’t do, but for what he could do. He said he “served clients in problem-solving” and demanded a high fee because of that. [Hollywood, remember this terminology -- that wiretapping and other extreme stuff is just problem-solving.] And to do this, Pellicano said, it required him to use his sources with access to law enforcement and other databases. Pellicano said it was a matter of fact that his clients won their cases, but he would leave to the jury to answer the question of whether or not those clients won because of the information he provided. Pellicano also explained all those recordings found in his office by the FBI as mere reminders he made of his own conversations never meant to be heard by anyone else. When the judge asked him to tell the jurors what the evidence will show — which is the entire point of an opening statement – The Pellican said, “It will show … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: It looks like this month’s upcoming trial of Hollywood private investigator Anthony Pellicano isn’t going to disappoint. I’m told that big names from past and present in the entertainment biz like Paramount chief Brad Grey, Universal President/COO Ron Meyer, superlawyer Bert Fields and 7 partners from his Greenberg Glusker law firm, producer Chuck Roven, actors Sylvester Stallone and Garry Shandling, and perhaps most intriguing of all Michael Ovitz have received subpoenas to be possible witnesses for the government when the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles finally brings The Pelican and his five co-defendants, including bigtime showbiz lawyer Terry Christensen (who’s surprisingly going to be represented by his bigtime legal partner Patty Glaser), to trial on February 27th. Now, remember, these guys aren’t targets in this case, and they may not even be asked to testify, and there could be other famous names beyond these. (For instance, film director John McTiernan has already been sentenced to four months in prison for perjury.)
But if the above names do take the stand, I can’t wait to hear what they have to say. I’m told that Pellicano who’s acting as his own lawyer has already had that opportunity because yesterday he received the prosecution’s so-called “Jencks Material” which include statements made by government witnesses or prospective government witnesses. So Anthony can get busy reading what all these Hollywood heavies are saying about him, the case, and everyone … Read More »
So now Michael Ovitz is bringing his “I see into the future” carnival act to the digital crowd who, unbelievable as it sounds, is still impressed with his one-time moniker as “The Most Powerful Man in Hollywood.” You have to wonder if these prospective partners (see invitation below) know that most of Ovitz’s past partners from Hollywood, Broadway, Wall Street, Madison Avenue and sports (to name just a few areas) despise him now. Or that billionaire Ron Burkle is suing Ovitz for refusing to live up to his financial obligations in various Internet ventures. I guess there’s a sucker born every minute where Mike is concerned:
I would like to invite you to a VIP event that is being hosted by Michael Ovitz at his office in Santa Monica. Here’s the deal: I’m helping to create a new network in LA, alongside Dealmaker Media, one of Silicon Valley’s most connected networks. We are focused on linking L.A.’s key industry dealmakers with the venture community and the most promising technology startups in Southern California.
You probably know that L.A. is now 2nd in the nation in technology investment to Silicon Valley. But unlike Silicon Valley, we simply don’t have the community and cohesion that has churned out some of the most prolific technology companies in the world.
We’ve got all the elements of becoming a regional powerhouse: capital, talent, innovation, and commitment: the only thing we’re missing is a strong insider network … Read More »