Movie Article

First Refusal

Rumors of Mike Ovitz’s move to MCA are squashed -- The chairman of Creative Artists Agency is staying put while the studio is left with a gap

''They talked. I listened.'' With that simple pronouncement to his staff last Monday, talent tycoon Mike Ovitz dismissed weeks of speculation that he would step down as chairman of Creative Artists Agency to head MCA Inc. Despite reports that a deal between Ovitz and Edgar Bronfman Jr., the new owner of MCA, had been all but closed, the two moguls quietly returned to their respective corners, leaving others to do spin control — and proclaim the winner:

Ovitz won because...
''If Michael [had] wanted to make this deal, he would have,'' says one CAA insider. Instead, sources say that Ovitz, who as boss of the privately held agency answers to no one, balked at the thought of reporting to Bronfman. So Ovitz ''asked for too much so he would get rejected,'' speculates one Universal executive. ''A confirmed bachelor will always find something wrong with the girl he won't marry.''

Bronfman won because...
In contrast to the $700 million it cost Sony in 1989 to get producers Peter Guber and Jon Peters to head up its studio — in hindsight, a regrettable appointment — Bronfman appeared to have his shareholders' interests, and not just machismo dealmaking, in mind. Of course, this still leaves him holding a ''Help Wanted'' sign. Immediately after the Ovitz deal fell through, speculation arose that Warner Bros. chairman Terry Semel was the new leading candidate, but Semel quickly denied interest. ''Bronfman won't be able to get anybody as impressive as Mike,'' says a Universal insider. ''Now he'll probably take a more active role himself.''

And everybody else lost because...
That sobbing you hear around Hollywood is the sound of weeping rival agents, all of whom had been salivating at the prospect of raiding a weakened, Ovitz-less CAA. But it may not be dominance as usual with the powerhouse agency. If Ovitz had left, several up-and-coming young agents within CAA presumably would have taken larger roles. ''Lots of rivalries have come out in the open — and it's going to be hard to sweep them back under the carpet,'' observes a producer. However, according to at least one studio head, don't expect to see any public signs of weakness: ''CAA will be back bigger and better than ever. This town is so depressed.''

Originally posted Jun 16, 1995 Published in issue #279 Jun 16, 1995 Order article reprints
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