Hooray for Hollywood
Journalist James Andrew Miller has a written a way to long (752 pages in the print edition) and a way too hagiographic oral history of the Hollywood behemoth, Creative Artists Agency. It is filled with anecdotes about famous actors, writers and directors. However, by the end it reads like the promotional material an investment bank would use for an initial public offering, which, trust me, is coming. In their own words Powerhouse tells the story of five break away agents from the William Morris Agency to form Creative Artists in 1975. The lead players are Michael Ovitz, Ron Meyer and William Haber.
Ovitz, of course is the most famous, and is the driving force behind Creative Artists first 20 years. Although he didn’t invent packaging, where an agent puts together all of the key elements of a television series or motion picture, he certainly refined it to a high art. He is also a visionary with respect to technology by fully anticipating video streaming and the delivery content wirelessly.
The early days of Creative Artists are very reminiscent of my days at the old Salomon Brothers. It was an eat what you kill environment and everyone was hungry. In fact Ovitz acted as an investment banker with respect to the sale of Columbia Pictures to Sony and the sale of Universal to Matsushita.
However in 1995 Ovitz leaves for Disney which turns out to be a disaster for all of the parties involved and Haber leaves to run Universal. After they leave the “Young Turks” takeover and Creative Artists continues to thrive, but changes radically when they take in the private equity firm, TPG as a partner. In the 2000s Creative Artists branches out into sports management and continues the Ovitz initiatives in brand management.
The problems with the book are that it is too long and you don’t really hear from by the many people wronged by the agency.
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