Wednesday, April 23, 2014

David Letterman Passes Torch After 20 Year Run at CBS

Stephen Colbert poses for a 'selfie' with David Letterman
David Letterman will pass the torch to Stephen Colbert next year to host CBS' 'The Late Show', ending a 20-plus year run at the network since his 1993 debut, when Letterman famously moved from NBC to CBS in a deal brokered by Michael Ovitz.

According to this New York Times article, Letterman had a since a child dreamed of hosting a television show (on of his first gifts was a Tinker Toy set, which he built into a microphone), and when Johnny Carson became host of The Tonight Show, Letterman found a true idol and formulated a private ambition to someday succeed him.  When NBC signed Letterman for 'Late Night with David Letterman', the dream seemed within reach, however The Tonight Show role ultimately went to Jay Leno (a good friend of Letterman's who had himself ascended to prominence as a guest on Letterman's 'Late Night'), as NBC wanted both stars - not one or the other - to solidify its late night lineup after the retirement of Carson.   Letterman was understandably devastated, and began to doubt his own future in television.  

"Though he believed his future was shot, his friends did not. In the next few months Peter Lassally, an executive producer for Carson, who also served as David Letterman's unofficial career counselor, began his own efforts to counter what he deemed the unjust rejection of Letterman by NBC. He began by lining up a powerful new advocate for Letterman: Michael Ovitz, the chairman of Creative Artists Agency (C.A.A.), the most powerful talent representative in show business.

On an August morning in 1991, David Letterman and Peter Lassally were escorted to Michael Ovitz's corner office on the third floor of the I. M. Pei-designed C.A.A. headquarters, in Beverly Hills. Ovitz greeted them with a rush of warmth and enthusiasm. As soon as they were comfortable, he revved up the sales pitch to high speed. Ovitz said he saw Letterman as an enormous star with geometric possibilities; he had drawn up a complete architecture for Dave's future. C.A.A. would deliver everything Dave wanted. Yes, there would be an 11:30 show for him, and there would be offers from each network. But the deal would be bigger than that. Ovitz would be able to bid Dave around the entire television industry. Networks, studios, syndicators, everywhere and everybody. Dave would become a giant from this deal. All these things would be delivered, because Dave was the biggest and the best.

It was virtuoso salesmanship, a performance so dazzling that even the two show business cynics who were bathed in it could not help but come away dripping with excitement. Back at Lassally's house that afternoon, a giddy Dave kept saying over and over, 'I've been to see the godfather! I had a meeting with the godfather!'

Ovitz began to deliver on his promises the following summer, as Letterman's contract was winding down. He set up an elaborate courting process, in which the heads of other networks and virtually every television company in the industry were invited to pitch for David Letterman. A line immediately began to form. Eventually Letterman received serious offers from a half-dozen syndicators including the Walt Disney Company and Viacom Inc., which proposed a deal that could have made Letterman up to $50 million a year, as well as the Fox network and CBS. CBS was the favorite from the beginning because it was a traditional network, had a stronger station lineup than Fox and was Letterman's preference -- if he couldn't get 'Tonight.'

On Dec. 7, 1992, CBS won the first round in the bidding for David Letterman with the promise of a salary that could reach $14.5 million a year. But NBC still had 30 business days to match any offer and keep the star."

Ultimately, NBC did offer Letterman the Tonight Show, but with certain provisions, including when he would take over the role.  In the end, the CBS offer was too good to turn down, and Letterman famously made the move, shaping the late night television landscape for years to come. 

Read the entire New York Times article, Behind the Headlines in the Leno - Letterman Role.

Congratulations to David Letterman for an extraordinary run at The Late Show!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Dinner with the Stars of Los Angeles

Michael Votaggio, chef of ink. and business partner with Michael Ovitz
Michael Voltaggio (chef of ink. and business partner with Michael Ovitz) will join celebrity chefs Jon Shook (Animal), Ori Menashe (Bestia), Rory Herrmann and Walter Manzke (République) for what will surely be an extraordinary "Dinner with the Stars of Los Angeles" at the Seventh Annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine event kicking off April 10.

The creativity of these chefs is not limited to food:  "They’ve got some terrific wine events scheduled such as a tasting of five decades of Mayacamas or a tasting in celebration of Vega Sicilia Único’s 150th anniversary."

To purchase tickets to the Seventh Annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine, or for more information on ticket packages, visit or call 1-866-907-FOOD (3663). Ticket prices range from $100 for a single event pass to $4,750 for a VIP four-day pass, which gives you access to all events and private after-hour parties with the chefs and winemakers.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

NFL Team to Los Angeles?

Michael Ovitz NFL Stadium in Los Angeles
Three NFL teams - the St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers - are eyeing Los Angeles as a potential future home, reopening the long-standing effort by the city's business and political leaders to return an NFL team to the southland.  Michael Ovitz is involved in the effort, according to this recent article in CBS Sports by Jason La Canfora,  Battle for Los Angeles: Rams, Raiders jockey for return to SoCal:

"L.A. looks more and more like the most desired long-term path for Raiders management. [Raiders owner Mark] Davis has spent some time with entertainment mogul Michael Ovitz, I'm told, who has a strong relationship with Commissioner Roger Goodell and few are better positioned to pull off ultimately getting an NFL team back in L.A. than he is."

In addition to examining the Raiders chances of returning to L.A., the article goes on to speculate the potential significance behind purchases of land in a NFL-approved region of downtown L.A. by Rams owner Stan Kroenke, as well as the increasingly realistic ability of the Chargers to leave their lease in Jack Murphy Stadium.

Michael Ovitz is no stranger to courting the NFL to bring a team back to Los Angeles.  In both 1998 and 1999 Ovitz made overtures for new stadiums, one in Carson and a re-imagining of the L.A. Coliseum entitled "The Coliseum at Exposition Park."  The design greatly impressed NFL owners, as detailed in this 1999 article, Ovitz's Coliseum Design Dazzles NFL in Preview:

"The design blends the architectural look of the Roman Colosseum, used as the model for the L.A. Coliseum when it was built in the 1920s, with a touch of Hollywood--a frosted glass rim that would be lit at night.  The 68,000-seat stadium, which could expand to 92,000 for Super Bowls, would include two end-zone glass towers to house lavish luxury boxes; two reflecting pools; a picnic area; patches of grass in front of more than 200 luxury suites; 15,000 club seats; and a misting system to keep fans cool. Fountains would spurt water when a touchdown is scored."

Sounds a lot like features included in some of today's most modern stadiums - a prescient plan that was ultimately not enacted due to the various difficulties involved in bringing an NFL franchise to L.A.  Both the Raiders and Rams left the city largely due to declining stadiums which would have required significant public funds to subsidize the equally significant private investment necessary to rebuild.  Carson, meanwhile, did ultimately end up with a team - today it is the site of the very successful - albeit smaller - stadium for the L.A. Galaxy, Los Angeles' professional soccer team, winning recent MLS championships in both 2011 and 2012.

Read the entire CBS Sports article by Jason La Canfora,  Battle for Los Angeles: Rams, Raiders jockey for return to SoCal:

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Allen & Co. Thriving in Tech Investing

Michael Ovitz at Allen & Co's Annual Sun Valley Conference
The firm behind Facebook's $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp Inc., the Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter IPOs, Dropbox's latest investment round and more might surprise you. In Allen & Co. Flourishes as a Tech Deal Maker, WSJ's Marketwatch details the tech successes of Allen & Co., the modest (by investment banking standards) 180 employee firm led by CEO Herbert Allen III.

Allen took over the firm in 2002 following the dot-com bubble burst. "The same year, talent agent Michael Ovitz, a family friend, connected him to Marc Andreessen and partner Ben Horowitz (now of VC firm Andreessen Horowitz), who were then running online-storage company Loudcloud Inc. At Mr. Ovitz's suggestion, they stopped at Allen's glitzy Fifth Avenue headquarters, which housed an art collection and a fully staffed kitchen. Mr. Allen surprised his guests. 'He said, 'We're thinking about diving into tech,' and I remember being just stunned,' Mr. Andreessen recalled. Other banks were trimming tech practices. 'Tech was so dead, and everybody was so miserable.'"

Commitment, loyalty and belief in nascent companies has proven a very successful business model for the firm. By arranging early private financing and investing rounds, Allen & Co. has often been repaid with a role in a later IPO. "Allen helped arrange large private investments in Zynga, Groupon and, each of which gave Allen & Co. a role in its IPO." Similarly, "Allen's Facebook ties date to 2005, when Peter Thiel, Facebook's first outside investor, introduced Mr. Allen to founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg. At the time, Facebook was a social network for college students and had little revenue. Seven years later, Allen & Co. landed a spot in Facebook's IPO."

One of the more unique aspects of the firm is the method by which it creates and facilitates networking in the tech world. Rather than conventional office meetings, "each March, Allen & Co. invites investors and executives to a resort near Tucson, Ariz., to network. Allen & Co. also hosts a well-known media conference each July in Sun Valley, Idaho, where attendees have included Ovitz, Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor; Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp; and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg... Mr. Allen also offers access to two exclusive conferences and expense-paid trips to the family's sprawling ranch near Yellowstone National Park to lure tech's rising stars."

 Read the entire Marketwatch article, Allen & Co. Flourishes as a Tech Deal Maker

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Michael Ovitz Investor in Medium, New Startup Founded by Evan Williams

Twitter and Blogger co-founder Evan Williams
Michael Ovitz has invested in Medium, a startup launched by Twitter and Blogger co-founder Evan Williams.  The premise of Medium is to create a blend between the highly successful, pithy 140-character limit of Twitter with the publishing capabilities of a blogging platform.

In addition to Ovitz, the substantial $25 million round of funding included 'Greylock Partners, Google Ventures' Kevin Rose, SV Angel's Ron Conway, Chris Sacca, Peter Chernin, Tim O'Reilly, Michael Ovitz, Gary Vaynerchuk, Betaworks, Code Advisors, and CAA Ventures and Science.'

Last November, Williams became a billionaire during Twitter's IPO, and was until this recent round the primary investor in Medium.

Michael Ovitz is a well known investor and consultant in Silicon Valley.  His Broad Beach Ventures, founded in 2010, invests in early-stage technology companies; BBV's portfolio includes Palantir, Klout, Priceonomics, GoodRx, Blend Labs, HipSwap, Factual and many more.  Ovitz also consults with venture capital firms including Andreessen Horowitz, Formation 8, and Founders Fund


Monday, January 6, 2014

Tamara Mellon Releases Spring 2014 Collection

Tamara Mellon Collection
Michael Ovitz's girlfriend, Tamara Mellon, has released her Spring 2014 Collection of her new fashion line, although to even think of it as a collection is something she wants to change.  Mellon, the former Chief Creative Officer and co-founder of Jimmy Choo, is unafraid, ambitious and forward-thinking; one of her goals is to reinvent how the fashion system works. 

"'It can't be a six-month gap' between when a collection is shown and when it is sold, she insists. A continuous 'Endless Collection' of permanently available basics makes up the backbone of her namesake line—fine-gauge cashmere tees and tanks, upscale sweats, and the all-in-one legging boot, which doesn't look like much on the hanger but is a best seller—while the trend-driven portion is shown quarterly and delivered monthly."

Mellon maintains that we are living in a world where women 'want to buy now what they want to wear now'.  Her strategy is to sell in-season clothes, such that a look shown on the runway is immediately available to consumers, rather than a season away.  Instead of releasing an entire line at once, her 'Endless Collection' will slowly and continually become available through her e-commerce site and brick and mortar locations.  This approach, according to Mellon, 'puts the needs of modern women first" over the traditional conventions of the fashion industry.  
Michael Ovitz and Tamara Mellon

In addition to her new fashion line, Mellon recently completed In My Shoes: A Memoir, 'a take-no-prisoners run through her life, from the fraught relationship with her mother, the business split with Jimmy Choo himself, the personal split with her husband and the eventual decision to split herself from the brand she'd created and nurtured for nearly 15 years. It's eye-openingly frank, but that's her new attitude to life.'  

Michael Ovitz is no stranger to fashion.  His daughter is New York fashion designer Kimberly Ovitz, whose most recent foray into jewelry with 3-D print shop Shapeways is turning heads in both the fashion and tech industries.

Learn more about In My Shoes: A Memoir here.