Hollywood is confused by Kavanaugh but awed by his abilities
Ryan Kavanaugh is a major player in Hollywood, but there’s speculation about this basic question: Who exactly is Ryan Kavanaugh?To many, he’s still a mystery figure who manages to deliver large amounts of money to studios to co-finance their movies and whose name regularly appears on executive producer credits of big-budget movies. But who is he, and where did he come from? Some folks in the industry believe there are two Ryan Kavanaughs — at least two. The first Ryan is a convivial, chatty man who looks younger than his 34 years — an individual who likes to dish about industry intrigues, puts down his own financial accomplishments and can joke about his melodramatic relationships with the opposite sex. This Ryan is hardworking but accident prone — witness the fact that, though he’s a moderate drinker, his driving is sufficiently erratic to provoke occasional run-ins with the cops. The problem is that this Ryan — Ryan the Kid — can instantly transmogrify into the second Ryan, the Numbers Ryan. The second Ryan will suddenly start charting the numbers on a specific film project, summoning up data, weaving an intricate statistical web of revenue streams. This Ryan is a zealously competitive movie maven whose methodology may become esoteric but whose results have been consistently productive. As one Hollywood CEO puts it, “I don’t always follow his reasoning, and I don’t fully understand how he does it, but somehow he always comes through.” Thus while the two contrasting Ryans puzzle people, and catch them by surprise, they have won respect — even fond respect — from a town known for its toughness and competitiveness. Both Ryans were on display at the recent Hollywood Film Awards banquet at the Beverly Hilton. Seated with his mother and father, he was accepting congratulations from high-profile guests at the event. He also was being chided by friends and rivals over the flow of accolades. One source of kidding: Ryan has been working diligently to build the Rogue brand in films and also clothing. Also pushing the Rogue label, however, is Sarah Palin, whose new book is titled “Going Rogue” and who wants just as fiercely to build a different kind of brand than Kavanaugh has in mind. Kavanaugh himself was all but enveloped by the financial business before he finished college. By the time he was a junior at UCLA, he was already working at the old Dean Witter, and by his senior year he had started a hedge fund — he dropped out with three classes left to complete. Kavanaugh comes by his financial cred through his family. His father, German-born, was both a doctor and an MBA and also played a role in several important mergers. He helped create Merck Pharmaceuticals and currently is chairman of a medical company developing drugs to help cure cataracts. He also speaks nine languages. His son speaks only two — English and numbers — both fluently.