Michael Ovitz, the former agent and manager who was once the most powerful and feared man in Hollywood but is now all but exiled from the industry, knows who’s to blame for his downfall: the ”gay mafia.” Or so he says, according to Reuters, in an interview in the August issue of Vanity Fair, which hits newsstands on Wednesday,
Ovitz, whose Artists Management Group collapsed last year (costing him a reported $200 million) and was sold for a bargain-basement $12 million to little-known music agent Jeff Kwatinetz, blames his business troubles on an enemies list that he says includes DreamWorks cofounder David Geffen; Disney Chairman (and former Ovitz boss) Michael Eisner; rival talent manager Bernie Brillstein; Bryan Lourd, Kevin Huvane and Richard Lovett, partners at Creative Artists Agency (the talent agency that Ovitz used to run); Universal Studio president Ron Meyer (Ovitz’s former partner at CAA); Vivendi Universal Entertainment CEO Barry Diller; and New York Times Hollywood correspondent Bernard Weinraub. ”It was the goal of these people to eliminate me,” Ovitz tells the magazine. ”This business would have worked except for these five or six guys. They wanted to kill Michael Ovitz. If they could have taken my wife and kids, they would have.”
In the late ’80s and early ’90s, when Ovitz ran CAA, his specialty was the package deal, where he would force studios to put together movie deals where the stars, director, and writer of a film were all CAA clients. In those days, he regularly topped Hollywood power lists, including Entertainment Weekly’s. But Ovitz, who had long wanted to run his own studio, took a job as Eisner’s No. 2 at Disney and was fired after a disastrous 14 months in 1996. He invested in several other failed entertainment ventures, the Waterloo of which was his company Artists Management Group, which produced several failed TV series (”Madigan Men,” ”The $treet”). Last minute capital infusions from Diller and AT&T failed to materialize, and Ovitz sold the business to Kwatinetz a few months ago.
”If I were to establish the foundation of the negativity, it all comes down to David Geffen and Bernie Weinraub,” Ovitz says, blaming the Times reporter for giving the DreamWorks principal a media platform for his antipathy toward Ovitz. ”David has always hated me. He got Ronnie [Meyer] to turn on me, and then Bryan Lourd and everyone else.” He says Geffen persuaded Diller to back out of the 11th-hour deal to save AMG.
The ”gay mafia” charge is puzzling, especially since many of the people on the list are, by all accounts, not gay. One who is openly gay, Geffen, tells the magazine, ”This is insane. I think he needs a psychiatrist. It’s so paranoid, and so crazy, and so irresponsible, and makes him look like such a nut. On a scale of 1 to 10 crazy, it’s 11.” Calling Ovitz’s notion of a gay cabal homophobic, he says sarcastically, ”All the gay people get together, like the Jewish people get together. I mean, yeah, we meet on Thursdays. I’m offended.” Diller calls Ovitz’s charges ”fairly rotten,” and Meyer calls them ”ridiculous.” Others declined comment.
An alternate explanation for Ovitz’s woes, one offered by Brillstein in Entertainment Weekly last fall, is that Ovitz shouldn’t have invested his own money in his high-overhead business. ”To finance a television business yourself is insane,” Brillstein said. ”We always had someone else pay. His ego has taken him over the edge. He’s got three times as many people as he needs.”