Monday, September 26, 2016

Powerhouse: CAA and Coca-Cola

Powerhouse:  The Untold History of Hollywood's Creative Artist Agency
Powerhouse, The Untold History of Hollywood's Creative Artists Agency includes many anecdotes about CAA's history told first-hand by Michael Ovitz and many others.  A gem among them is the story of how in 1992 Ovitz and CAA shook up the ad industry by winning Coca-Cola as a client from advertising firm McCann-Erickson, which had handled the account for 40 years.

In 1990 Coca-Cola was concerned about the quality of Pepsi-Cola's advertising, and then Coke president Don Keough along with global marketing head Peter Sealey turned to Ovitz and CAA, who would manage their ads like miniature films rather than 'churned out 30-second commercials.'
Michael Ovitz Coca Cola Polar Bears

Shelly Hochron, who headed CAA's in-house creative team, said, “Essentially, Coke gave Michael a blank check. In the first round, we did 31 or 32 commercials. Maybe five or six were done by CAA clients and they were paid enormously well for that -- people like Martin Scorsese and Rob Reiner.”

The result was an animation:  the Coca-Cola Polar Bears ad campaign, a huge success then (and still going strong today, 25 years later).  By the second year of the campaign, Coke had made $42 million in sales of polar bear plush toys alone.  The only catch?  Ovitz, a legendary deal-maker, had forgotten to negotiate a fee with Coca-Cola in advance of the campaign.  

It was left to Coke executive Sealey to come up with what he thought was a reasonable fee. “I had my accounting guys issue a check for $10 million, payable to Michael Ovitz, and I had them put it in the hands of a little toy polar bear and walk it over to CAA. Three days later, I got an envelope from Michael with the same check and a little Post-it note. The check is voided and the Post-it says, 'Pete, let's discuss this.' Ovitz eventually complained all the way to Coke CEO Roberto Goizueta that the fee was too low. The final payout? “Thirty-one million,” recalled Sealey. “In retrospect, it was worth it. But it was classic Michael Ovitz. You've got to admire the guy."

Read the THR article, Letterman's Dare and 4 Other Stories From CAA Book 'Powerhouse'

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Michael Ovitz & Ron Meyer in conversation with James Andrew Miller

Michael Ovitz and former CAA partner Ron Meyer

Michael Ovitz and former CAA partner Ron Meyer will be meeting on September 29 for a live discussion of James Andrew Miller’s Powerhouse: The Untold Story Of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency, an oral history of the agency Ovitz and Meyer co-founded in 1975 along with Mike Rosenfeld, William Haber, and Rowland Perkins

Originally set for September 7 at the WGA theater, the talk was moved to the DGA (Directors Guild of America) due to ticket demand, and then postponed to September 29 due to Ovitz recovering from recent back surgery.  The event is sold out; proceeds from the evening will go to the Motion Picture and Television Fund.

Michael Ovitz was a co-founder of CAA, and served as its chairman until he left the agency in 1995 to become president of The Walt Disney Company. He later launched AMG, Artists Management Group, and is now a businessman and investor.

Ron Meyer was a co-founder of CAA, and served as its president before being named president and chief operating officer of Universal Studios in 1995. He is now Vice Chairman of NBCUniversal.

James Andrew Miller is an award winning journalist and co-author of the New York Times bestsellers Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN; Live from New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told by Its Stars, Writers, and Guests; and Running in Place: Inside the Senate. He has written for the Washington Post, the New York Times, Vanity Fair, and many others. 

POWERHOUSE: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency "unveils an astonishing - and astonishingly entertaining - history of Hollywood’s transformation over the past five decades as seen through the agency at the heart of it all. Launched in 1975, when five bright and brash employees of a creaky William Morris office left to open their own, strikingly innovative talent agency, CAA would come to revolutionize the entertainment industry, and over the next several decades its tentacles would spread aggressively throughout the worlds of movies, television, music, advertising, investment banking, and sports. Drawing on unprecedented and exclusive access to the men and women who built and battled with CAA, as well as financial information never before made public, author James Andrew Miller weaves a story of prophetic brilliance, singular genius, and entrepreneurial courage..."

For more info, see Michael Ovitz & Ron Meyer in conversation with James Andrew Miller 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Los Angeles-based Factual raises $35 million in Series B funding

Factual CEO Gil Elbaz
Los Angeles -based Factual raised $35 million from a group of investors including Michael Ovitz, Andreessen Horowitz, Altpoint Ventures, Data Collective, Haystack Partners, Heritage Group, Index Ventures, Miramar Ventures, Tamarisk Global, and others. In addition to Factual, the investment group has funded other data companies such as Palantir, Planet Labs, and The Climate Corporation.

Factual embeds its software into popular mobile applications to keep tabs on a user's location, determining their interests and demographics based on the places they’ve been, allowing ad technology companies to "target specific segments of the population, such as empty-nesters or college kids".  It currently follows around 600 million people.  "Its Geopulse Audience product helps build defined audience segments, spanning demographic, geographic, behavioral, and brand affinities; while its Geopulse Proximity tool enables advertisers to use popular location-based targeting techniques - such as geofencing and ‘geoconquesting’ - to deliver ads to mobile users based on where they currently are."  Factual follows about 600 million people. It’s now working on prediction software to figure out where people will go and personalize software to automatically tailor apps to individual tastes.

"In 2008 when I founded Factual, the need for a neutral data company whose only business is enabling others to build great products was crystal clear," said Gil Elbaz, CEO & founder of Factual. "Since then, the need has only grown as there has been a demonstrated trend among large platforms to limit or shut down 3rd party access to their data in favor of their own products. Access to data is as critical for innovation as access to computing power or talent. I'm incredibly proud of the progress we've made to date and I am looking forward to the next phase of the company. As we forge ahead, we will continue to make data accessible, accelerating innovation and improving our daily lives."

Read the entire L.A. Times article, Data startups, Riot Games data and more among week's L.A. tech highlights
Visit the Factual website:

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Broad Contemporary Art Museum Celebrates Opening with Gala

Michael Ovitz - The Broad Art Museum opens in Downtown L.A.
The Broad opens in Downtown L.A.
Michael Ovitz attended last night's opening night of The Broad, the Eli and Edythe Broads contemporary art museum located Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles.  “To have Frank Gehry’s Disney Hall, the Music Center, MOCA and LACMA, it’s like we’ve finally arrived,” Ovitz told THR in this article.

Featuring an opening collection of some 250 pieces from artists such as Jeff Koons, Jasper Johns, Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol and Jean-Michael Basquiat, the new museum will be free to the public.  “It’s contemporary; it’s a celebration of now,” said producer Joel Silver. “And it’s free.” 

According to THR, "Even the gala was free. This included the reception and dinner on a nearby parking structure’s third floor that had been topped with a glass-walled tent and filled with 43 rectangular tables that each seated 16. The color of the space was museum grey. After the guests arrived, a screen was pulled back and a 50-piece orchestra (all dressed in white) was playing Cole Porter’s 'I've Got You Under My Skin.'"

Guests included artists, gallerists, cultural figures, politicians, business titans, civic leaders and - of course - Hollywood stars.  Mayor Eric Garcetti, California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie BeckTobey Maguire (with wife Jennifer Meyer), Gwyneth Paltrow, Owen Wilson, Val Kilmer and Rosanna Arquette, WME’s Ari Emanuel and lawyer Bert Fields were but a few of the 1,600 attendees.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Media moguls flock Michael Kassan’s Hamptons party

MediaLink chairman and CEO Michael Kassan
Michael Ovitz and Tamara Mellon attended a party in the Hamptons Friday nigtht hosted by MediaLink chairman and CEO Michael Kassan and his wife, Ronnie, according to this report on Page Six of the New York Post.

Guests at the East Hampton estate on Abrahams Path included " CEO Lisa Gersh and private-equity titan Alan Patricof and his wife, Susan; Hearst Magazine's president Michael Clinton, Group M’s ­Irwin Gotlieb, BuzzFeed chief creative officer Frank Cooper III and his wife, Nina Whittington Cooper, iHeartMedia’s ­Richard Bressler and PepsiCo’s Brad Jakeman."

Friday, August 7, 2015

Hamasaku - Legendary Sushi Spot Continues to Evolve

Michael Ovitz's Hamasaku - legendary spot's makeover
Hamasaku evolves with the times and remains on a roll
Michael Ovitz's Hamasaku has long been a fixture for high-end sushi lovers on L.A.'s Westside.'s A Legendary Sushi Spost's Big Makeover details the transition from Hamasaku's fame-inspired rolls (still available) to a more refined Japanese fare thanks to the leadership of executive sushi chef Yoya Takahashi and executive chef Wonny Lee.  Now Hamasaku has completed an interior design makeover as well "overhauled by architect Marwan Al-Sayed (of Utah’s Amangiri resort), who brought in a new “bento box” aesthetic, with blond wood and felt and fabrics in a wide variety of colors and textures. Offsetting the new design is an impressive selection of Japanese art from Ovitz's renowned collection.

“The quality of food and warmth of hospitality has never changed, and as all things need to evolve, it was important to not interrupt the overall ethos we originally created,” says Ovitz, a famed aficionado of Eastern influences. “Marwan Al-Sayed’s interpretation of what we had to offer breathed a new life into the space and mirrors the simplicity that I’ve always admired in Japanese design and culture.”

Read the entire article, A Legendary Sushi Spost's Big Makeover

Better yet, visit Hamasaku and see and taste the changes for yourself!  (I can personally attest it is the most delicious sushi in town).

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Unfinished Business: Carson's road to an NFL Stadium

Proposed NFL stadium for Carson, CA
On Aug. 11 the NFL will hold a special meeting on the Los Angeles situation, considered a "pivotal moment" in the league's more-than-20-year odyssey back to the Los Angeles-Orange County market. The owners will consider why a $1.75 billion stadium in Carson next to the 405 Freeway is the ideal place for the NFL to replant its flag in the nation's second-largest market - serving as the new home for either the Oakland Raiders or San Diego Chargers.

The NFL has had the Carson site on its short list for many years.  In both 1998 and 2003 Michael Ovitz played a prominent role in bringing NFL football to Carson.  In 2003, the league came very close to closing the deal; the NFL authorized $10 million to purchase a 157-acre plot that was once a landfill.  At the time Ovitz acted as a go-between in negotiations between GMS, the real estate firm holding the site, and the NFL.

“People from L.A. thought there was great promise in Carson and that this is a centrally located, strategically positioned space that would accommodate the entire L.A. market," said Carmen Policy, (the former San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns executive who is spearheading efforts to gain the National Football League's approval of the Chargers and Raiders relocating to Carson of the site) that in recent years has undergone a $120 million cleanup. “Michael Ovitz was a huge proponent. We looked into it and we tried to buy it, we the league. We tried to buy it (from) the glazier union, but the remediation and the deal we were trying to cut in terms of the remediation and who's responsible and so forth, it just wasn't ready. So we went back and took another look at Carson ... and we didn’t know if there was an appetite, an immediate appetite for L.A. at that time, who were we going to put there and all that kind of stuff.

“We came up with $150,000 to buy an option to buy site for a certain period of time, due diligence, gave us a right to negotiate a purchase price. We just couldn't put the whole thing together.

“So in a sense it's all unfinished business.”

It is unknown what role if any Ovitz has in current negotiations.  He is a good friend of both NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Raiders owner Mark Davis.

Read about Carmen Policy and the upcoming Aug. 11 Meeting in the OC Register's Former 49ers, Browns executive Carmen Policy using all his expertise to move Chargers, Raiders to Carson

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Titans of tech head to Sun Valley's Allen & Company conference

Michael Ovitz arrives at Allen & Co's annual conference in Sun Valley, Idaho
Michael Ovitz arrived in Sun Valley, Idaho on Tuesday for Allen & Co's annual conference, a gathering of the biggest names in tech and entertainment including Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Tesla and SpaceX's Elon Musk, Apple's Tim CookYahoo!’s Marissa Mayer and many others.

The event, hosted by investment firm Allen & Company, focuses on talks about business and the economy and is strictly invite only, with members of the press kept at bay.  In the Tuesday morning session, Elon Musk offered his vision of the future during a panel with LinkedIn Corp. co-founder Reid Hoffman. The two executives know one another from having worked at PayPal together early in their careers.

With so many heavy hitters in one place, blockbuster deals are not uncommon.  According to The Hollywood Reporter, past deals hatched at least in part at the Sun Valley event include's founder Jeff Bezos purchase of The Washington Post for $250 million after discussions initiated at the 2013 Allen event and Disney's acquisition of ABC for $19 billion in 1996.

Other attendees to look out for this year include New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Rupert Murdoch, Barry Diller, Universal Studios chairman Ron Meyer, Michael Bloomberg, Airbnb’s Brian Chesky, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Sony Entertainment chief Michael Lynton, The Weinstein Co.’s Harvey Weinstein, DreamWorks Animation’s Jeffrey Katzenberg, Paramount’s Brad Grey, CAA’s Bryan Lourd, and Google's Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt, to name just a few.

Read the Business Insider's The summer camp for billionaires, which kicks off in Sun Valley today, has yielded some blockbuster deals