When Michael Ovitz, who was routinely called the most powerful and feared man in Hollywood a decade ago, blamed his downfall on a ”gay mafia” in the current issue of Vanity Fair magazine, many in Hollywood, including those he accused by name, scratched their heads. Did he really mean it? ”I’m stunned,” said Vivendi Universal Entertainment CEO Barry Diller in the same article. DreamWorks cofounder David Geffen, the chief target of Ovitz’s blame, told the magazine he found Ovitz’s remarks homophobic, called Ovitz ”paranoid,” and recommended that he seek psychiatric help. So it’s less surprising that, on Wednesday, as the issue hit the newsstands, so did Ovitz’s apology.
Ovitz did not deny making the remarks attributed to him or claim he was quoted out of context. Rather, he said in a statement, ”I made some statements that were inappropriate during an open and frank discussion with Vanity Fair. In particular the term ‘gay mafia’ does not reflect my true feelings or attitudes. It is regrettable and I am truly sorry.”
Ovitz’s comments seemed inflammatory, not just because many of those he named on his enemies list (which included Universal Studio president Ron Meyer, Disney chief Michael Eisner, the current management team at the Ovitz-founded Creative Artists Agency, and New York Times reporter Bernard Weinraub) are not gay, but also because he offered no evidence that any of these people harbor ill will toward him or bore any more responsibility for his downfall than he did himself. Ovitz’s troubles began in the mid-1990s when he left his area of expertise, as Hollywood’s top agent, to take the No. 2 job at Disney. Eisner fired him after 14 months but gave him a generous severance package, reportedly worth $90 million. Even as his latest business, Artists Management Group, was flailing (it had produced several failed TV series), Ovitz managed to attract the interest of potential investors Diller and AT&T, though ultimately, neither decided to prop up the company, leading to its fire-sale earlier this year to agent Jeff Kwatinetz for $12 million. Whether or not Ovitz had enemies before, he probably has plenty now – unless they accept his apology.