Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Jimmy Lee of JPMorgan Chase Remembered for Shaping an Industry

Michael Ovitz at memorial service for Jimmy Lee
Michael Ovitz, Jerry Speyer, Lloyd Blankfein, Gary Cohn, Charlie Rose and others exiting a memorial mass for Jimmy Lee.
"James B. Lee Jr., a towering figure on Wall Street, was remembered at his funeral Mass on June 22 as a father, a friend and an investment banker possessed of boundless energy, sprawling interests and a crackling wit, qualities that made him one of the most successful and beloved figures in his industry."

Michael Ovitz, Charlie Rose, Barry Diller, Marissa Mayer, Jack Welch, Jeff Immelt, Rupert Murdoch and many others were in attendance at the memorial for James B. "Jimmy" Lee, described by the Wall Street Journal as "one of its most quintessential figures—an archetypal investment banker who for four decades weathered booms, busts and changes in regulations by harnessing the art of deal making, networking with corporate chieftains and promoting his successes."

The service, in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Midtown Manhattan, "was just blocks from where Mr. Lee worked as vice chairman of JPMorgan Chase. There, he shaped corporate America and the nation’s biggest bank through a career that established him as perhaps the pre-eminent deal maker of his generation."

Honorary ushers in attendance included Michael R. Bloomberg; Roger Goodell, the National Football League commissioner; and Stephen A. Schwarzman, chief executive of the private equity firm Blackstone.

Lee oversaw major mergers and acquisitions deals including the sale of General Electric assets, the General Motors and Alibaba IPOs (the two largest U.S. IPOs ever), the United-Continental merger and the Comcast-NBCUniversal merger.

"As Vice Chairman of our company and former head of our Investment Bank, Jimmy made an indelible and invaluable contribution to our company, our people, our clients and our industry over his nearly 40 years of dedicated and selfless service. Jimmy was a master of his craft, but he was so much more—he was an incomparable force of nature," JP Morgan Chase's Jamie Dimon said.

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook Inc., said Mr. Lee “believed in us long before many others did—when we were a small company with little revenue, he told us and anyone else who would listen how much potential he thought Facebook had. He was a trusted counselor.”

Reach the Wall Street Journal's Jimmy Lee, Famed J.P. Morgan Deal Maker, Dies

Saturday, June 20, 2015

New 6th Street Viaduct is a bridge to a different future

Los Angeles' new 6th Street Viaduct
Michael Maltzan, architect of Michael Ovitz's residence, continues to innovate in his recent re-imagining of Los Angeles' iconic 6th Street Viaduct, crossing the L.A. River to connect downtown and Boyle Heights.  

Working with the engineering firm HNTB, Maltzan envisioned a bridge that didn't merely cross a river, but integrated a city.  "Our new bridge will not only bring people from Point A to Point B but to Point C — the bridge itself," said City Councilman José Huizar while announcing the winner of the design competition.  The bridge is designed for all types of transportation, from a roadway with arches slanting out at angles 'like the spikes on a stegosaurus' to keep drivers from feeling 'hemmed in', to staircases and bicycle ramps that 'allow pedestrians and cyclists to move throughout the bridge to catch views of the city's skyline to the west and explore the river below.'  The "bridge as destination" theme is reinforced by an amphitheater under the western grade and a municipal park to the east.

In 2000, Ovitz commissioned Maltzan to build a new residence both for his family and to be able to display his art collection.  Maltzan faced many of the same challenges in reconciling multiple uses into a single design.

Michael Ovitz Residence
The house was completed in 2010 and now acts at a permanent home for works from modern and contemporary painting and sculpture, to Ming Dynasty furniture and African antiquities. The house features three dedicated galleries, one of which is a rotating project space where commissioned artists create site-specific installations on an annual basis, thereby allowing the collection to expand the collection while also establishing new and lasting relationships with contemporary artists.

Read the entire Los Angeles Times article, New 6th Street Viaduct is a bridge to a different future

Monday, June 8, 2015

Now, It's Personal: The Epic, Inside Drama Behind the New Hollywood Agency Wars

Michael Ovitz - The Hollywood Reporter covers CAA
Michael Ovitz, co-founder of Creative Artists Agency, is mentioned in THR's in-depth coverage of the recent turmoil at CAA and other agencies, Now, It's Personal: The Epic, Inside Drama Behind the New Hollywood Agency Wars.  The article credits Ovitz's winning Coca Cola from McCann-Erickson in 1991 - forever changing the face of advertising - as sowing the seeds for the "diversified, multiplatform, multibillion-dollar entities" that comprise CAA today.  THR also notes how little CAA's culture has changed "from its inception in 1975.  Ovitz was known for imposing lock-step discipline and creating an aura of invincibility."

Much of the article explores the influence of outside investment - TPG Capital now holding a majority stake in CAA and Silver Lake Partners in WME | IMG - as well as the dichotomy between agency and agent; as agents jump to new agencies, artists are left to make the difficult decision between one or the other.  

Read the entire article in The Hollywood Reporter,  Now, It's Personal: The Epic, Inside Drama Behind the New Hollywood Agency Wars

Friday, May 22, 2015

Tomorrow's Advance Man - Marc Andreessen's plan to win the future
Michael Ovitz is quoted in the New Yorker's recent in-depth article on Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Silicon Valley VC firm Andreessen Horowitz.

"When a16z began, it didn’t have even an ersatz track record to promote. So Andreessen and Horowitz consulted on tactics with their friend Michael Ovitz, who co-founded the Hollywood talent agency Creative Artists Agency, in 1974. Ovitz told me that he’d advised them to distinguish themselves by treating the entrepreneur as a client: “Take the long view of your platform, rather than a transactional one. Call everyone a partner, offer services the others don’t, and help people who aren’t your clients. Disrupt to differentiate by becoming a dream-execution machine.”

Believing that founders make the best C.E.O.s—look at Intel, Apple, Oracle, Google, Facebook—Andreessen and Horowitz recruited only general partners who’d been founders or run companies. Then they began constructing the illusion of authority, taking offices on Sand Hill Road and filling them with paintings by Robert Rauschenberg and Sol LeWitt—another page from the book of Ovitz, who commissioned a Roy Lichtenstein painting for C.A.A.’s lobby that was so large the firm had to leave it behind when it moved. They were studiously punctual (partners are fined ten dollars for each minute they’re late to a pitch), used glassware rather than plastic, and said no quickly and explained why (unless the reason was doubts about the entrepreneur) in a handwritten note."
The article is filled with great anecdotes of Andreessen's experiences in shaping some of the most influential tech companies in the world.  The article describes him as "an evangelist for the church of technology, afire to reorder life as we know it. He believes that tech products will soon erase such primitive behaviors as paying cash (Bitcoin), eating cooked food (Soylent), and enduring a world unimproved by virtual reality (Oculus VR). He believes that Silicon Valley is mission control for mankind, which is therefore on a steep trajectory toward perfection."

"If you have a crackerjack idea, one of your stops on Sand Hill Road will be Andreessen Horowitz, often referred to by its alphanumeric URL, a16z. (There are sixteen letters between the “a” in Andreessen and the “z” in Horowitz.) Since the firm was launched, six years ago, it has vaulted into the top echelon of venture concerns. Competing V.C.s, disturbed by its speed and its power and the lavish prices it paid for deals, gave it another nickname: AHo. Each year, three thousand startups approach a16z with a “warm intro” from someone the firm knows. A16z invests in fifteen. Of those, at least ten will fold, three or four will prosper, and one might soar to be worth more than a billion dollars—a “unicorn,” in the local parlance. With great luck, once a decade that unicorn will become a Google or a Facebook and return the V.C.’s money a thousand times over: the storied 1,000x. There are eight hundred and three V.C. firms in the U.S., and last year they spent forty-eight billion dollars chasing that dream."

Read the entire New Yorker article, Tomorrow's Advance Man

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Met Gala 2015: Michael Ovitz, Tamara Mellon and Celebs Celebrate China

Michael Ovitz and Tamara Mellon at 2015 Met Gala
Michael Ovitz and Tamara Mellon were in attendence at the 2015 Met Gala along with many other celebrities including George and Amal Clooney, Beyonce and Jay Z, Reese Witherspoon, Usher, and Sophia Vergara.

This year's gala included a 'Chinese white tie' dress code to celebrate the China: Through the Looking Glass exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute, the event's beneficiary.

Ovitz's interest in Chinese culture is well known, from his days at CAA where he would hand out copies of Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" to his extensive collection of Ming dynasty furniture.

“I’ve always had a fascination with Asian culture,” the business and entertainment executive said. “I like the way they live, I like the way they respect their elders, their traditions, their roots.”

Ovitz told The Hollywood Reporter that he thinks China's growing role is Hollywood is "great" and that he'd been visiting China since the early 90s, his fondest memory a trip when he was received by then-Chinese president Jiang Zemin.

Anna Wintour
Ovitz was also quoted for his admiration of Anna Wintour, the Vogue editor-in-chief reponsible for organizing the fundraiser.

“I think Anna Wintour is the greatest thing since the invention of the wheel,” Ovitz said to BloombergBusiness. “I’ve known her a long time and everything she touches is magic.”

“She’s selfless about the fashion business,” Ovitz said of Wintour. “She doesn’t take credit for anything.”

Monday, May 4, 2015

Andreessen Horowitz, Deal Maker to the Stars of Silicon Valley

In some ways, Andreessen Horowitz is a talent agency as much as a tech investor.
The NY Times' recent article, 'Andreessen Horowitz, Deal Maker to the Stars of Silicon Valley' provides an extensive look at Michael Ovitz's influence on the Silicon Valley VC firm Andreessen Horowitz. 

“A lot of what we’re trying to do at Andreessen Horowitz is based directly on Michael’s experience building C.A.A...” says Marc Andreessen, co-founder of the firm.

"Similarities between the two businesses run deep. It’s not just that the Andreessen Horowitz partners, including Mr. Andreessen’s longtime collaborator, Ben Horowitz, realized that a V.C. firm could be run like a talent agency. It’s that the economics of Silicon Valley are uncannily similar to those of Hollywood. And by exploiting that insight, they may have helped inflate a tech bubble.

For all the attention Mr. Ovitz lavished on his stars — Creative Artists partners sat on boards of hospitals and private schools so they could help clients win preferential treatment — by far the most important things he procured for them were money and control.

In the mid-1970s, when Mr. Ovitz founded C.A.A., the breakdown of the traditional studio system had created a world in which stars had potentially enormous if little appreciated leverage. “For 60 years, the studios really took advantage of the creative talent,” Mr. Ovitz said in an interview. “We tried to change the entire curve.”

The studios still craved stars but no longer had formal sway over them through long-term contracts.

Mr. Ovitz assembled a murderers’ row of clients and used their collective power to win them fantastically lucrative business terms. “Ovitz said, ‘I’m going to straighten out your life,’ and he made a deal for me with Universal,” Martin Scorsese said in 1999. “They built these offices and screening room and helped me with my film foundation.” The firm also represented Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise and Glenn Close.

Mr. Andreessen, for his part, exploited a shift in power from venture capitalists to start-up founders in Silicon Valley. In the 1970s, V.C.s fronted entrepreneurs relatively small sums for large equity stakes in their start-ups. By the 2000s, however, new technologies trimmed the cost of getting a company off the ground. “We estimated that it costs 10 percent what it cost even 10 years ago to start a software company,” said David Golden of Revolution Ventures.

Deep-pocketed individual investors known as angels also made it possible for nearly anyone to start a company without a V.C.’s help. By the time an entrepreneur met with one, the business was more likely to be growing exponentially, making the V.C. the supplicant."

Monday, April 13, 2015

CAA Agents Depart to rival United Talent Agency

Creative Artists Agency
CAA, the talent agency co-founded by Michael Ovitz  in 1975, last felt tremors when co-founders and 'rainmakers' Ovitz and Ron Meyer departed in 1995.  The company has made the news recently with a new shakeup:  the departure of eleven agents to smaller rival UTA, taking with them a number of high profile clients including Chris Pratt, Zach Galifianakis and Will Ferrell.  

"CAA long was the biggest agency in Hollywood, and was known for its rock-solid stable of big stars. It also has a reputation for a buttoned-down corporate culture reinforced by its gleaming headquarters office at 2000 Avenue of the Stars.

In 1975, Creative Artists was created by defectors from the William Morris Agency. Their newly created firm eventually became majority-owned by Michael Ovitz, who was widely hailed as the most powerful figure in Hollywood before leaving the agency to a next generation of managers in the 1990s.

If public intrigue over the machinations of agents has diminished since Mr. Ovitz’s heyday, the current shake-up nonetheless shook Hollywood, where a semi-subterranean network of agents and managers conspires daily to keep clients working — or not."

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Armory Show Opens with Strong Sales

Michael Ovitz and Tamara Mellon were in attendance at The Armory Show's VIP preview last Wednesday along with various celebrities and collectors including Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka, Michael Stipe, Kelsey Grammar and Audrey Gruss.

This year's sales were apparently brisk, according to this article appearing in Forbes Magazine: “We’re surprised at the strength of the art market, and the speed at which it has kept growing,” said Thaddaeus Ropac, who was showing for the second year in a row at the Armory. “It’s very solid. We are pleased because the Armory has had its ups and downs in the last few years, but this year it’s an amazing turnout despite the weather. In the last few years the quality has gotten better. Many people came and the interest is strong.”
Michael Ovitz
Michael Ovitz and Tamara Mellon
with Dealer Hannah Schouwink (left) and
Ovitz Family Collection curator Nu Nguyen. (right)
Jean Gabriel Mitterand, whose eponymous gallery is based in Paris, agreed with Ropac’s assessment.

“The Armory Show has improved a lot,” said Mitterand. “This is a very strong year. We have many American collectors, from New York, the West Coast, Florida, and all over. We need to have contact with America once a year, and we get it thanks to the Armory Show.”

The Armory Show is a leading international contemporary and modern art fair that takes place every March on Piers 92 & 94 in central Manhattan. The show is "devoted to showcasing the most important artworks of the 20th and 21st centuries. In its sixteen years the fair has become an international institution, combining a selection of the world's leading galleries with an exceptional program of arts events and exhibitions throughout New York during the celebrated Armory Arts Week."

Check out The Armory Show's website here.

Michael Ovitz and Tamara Mellon with Dealer Hannah Schouwink (left) and Ovitz Family Collection curator Nu Nguyen. (right)