Power in the world of entertainment reflects the times. This is a recession year, and the third-most-powerful person (Barry Diller) is unemployed. This is a risqué year, from Basic Instinct to Civil Wars, and entertainment’s most powerful woman (Madonna) has new products to sell called Sex and Erotica. This is an election year, and the last spot belongs to a politician (guess who). But as the times change, so does our list. (Only four people, two of them in the top 10, haven’t moved since last year.) No. 101.5 in 1991, Macaulay Culkin, didn’t make this year’s list, but Home Alone 2 could put him on next year’s. On these pages you’ll meet the 1992 powers that be and find out about their cellular phones, where they walk their dogs, and more. Read on, and may the power be with you.
1 MICHAEL OVITZ
Chairman, Creative Artists Agency
Rank last year: 1 Age: 45 Why he’s still No. 1: In 1992, ”the art of the deal” has an ugly ring. It’s too ’80s, too Donald Trump, too Wall Street (the place), Wall Street (the movie), and ”Wall Street” (the greedy, grabby, grubby attitude). But even in the ’90s, some deals can be truly artful, and in Hollywood, nobody does them better than Ovitz and his army of agents at CAA, the 17-year-old agency he cofounded and now leads.
Ovitz oversees CAA with the strength, subtlety, and steely finesse of a veteran seducer. This year, eager to lure Tim Burton to CAA, Ovitz virtually mined the director’s psyche, wooing him with their shared interest in art, singing the siren song of new technologies, and generally velvet-gloving Burton into the expansive media opportunities offered by his agency. Meanwhile, Ovitz’s iron fist was aiming a body blow at rival William Morris, which didn’t have a prayer of keeping Burton once Ovitz expressed interest. It’s no surprise Burton chose CAA. Who wouldn’t want to be among Costner and Cruise, Spielberg and Streep, Hoffman and Beatty, Madonna and De Niro? They’re among the 700 clients who make CAA the industry’s top agency. But that may not be enough for Ovitz, who has masterminded CAA’s transformation into an infinitely adaptable corporate organism. Recently, Ovitz has redefined territory usually left to investment bankers (the brokering of Matsushita’s ‘91 purchase of MCA) and to Madison Avenue, which now must share one of its biggest clients: This year Coca-Cola chose CAA as its worldwide media consultant. Add in the relationships CAA is said to have with companies as diverse as Microsoft and Topps trading cards, and the reach of its tentacles becomes clear.
That’s an image that Ovitz would probably detest; after enduring years of stories that mythologized his cold-blooded competence and fondness for Japanese management techniques, he has recently softened his carefully monitored public image, humbly calling his fearsome reputation ”misleading” and adding that ”I don’t think I’m any more or less powerful than a dozen people in this town.”
We have yet to find a dozen people who believe him.