Brad Grey had the good life. He made a lot of money, managed big stars, produced some top TV shows and never got his name in the paper. He was the nice little guy with the soft voice and the impeccably polite manner that masked razor-sharp negotiating skills. Within the industry, everyone’s description of Brad was: What’s not to like?
When he traded that private life for his new one running Paramount, he did so with a certain apprehension. Would his new public life be as good to him?
A quick reading of the New York Times these past few days suggests a revisionist image of Brad Grey, as a hyperaggressive individual who hires thugs to do his dirty work and who occasionally exploits clients. Besides that, in negotiating the acquisition of DreamWorks he gave away the store. In short, he’s not only a bad guy but a bad businessman — at least according to the Times.
Will the real Brad Grey kindly step forward?
Let’s start by pointing out that Brad Grey did, in fact, have us fooled for awhile. Because of his mild manner, some insiders predicted his moves at Paramount would be gradual and studied. Instead he and his boss, Tom Freston, essentially blew the place apart and reinvented an entirely new company that seems at once charismatic and chaotic.
Even as he presided over this process, Grey’s name continued to adorn the Bill Maher show and “The Sopranos.” In short, his productions aren’t any gentler than his management style.
Then, of course along came the Pellicano affair, which the Feds have been keeping alive through an apparent strategy of media leaks. For three years investigators supposedly have been closing in on bigtime Hollywood names and, by nurturing a growing paranoia, hoped some of the supposed perpetrators would crack.
To be sure, no one, including the Times, has documented that Grey, or other frequently named suspects, actually knew that Anthony Pellicano was tapping phones on their behalf or performing other ugly acts of intimidation.
Still, a few power players tolerated his presence, which at times seemed ubiquitous. If no one knew Pellicano’s specialty was bugging phones, at least they knew he was a sleaze who habitually boasted about his ability to scare the shit out of a potential witness or a vulnerable woman going through a divorce or simply a disgruntled client suing his agent or manager.
Given this thuggish aura, why did important people line up to hire Pellicano? Why did major attorneys like Terry Christiansen, who’s been indicted, and Bert Fields, who has not, feel impelled to use his services?
Fields is an elegant man who just published a book about Shakespeare. With such a great legal business, why did he want to expand into the intimidation business?
The other day my mind flashed back to the first day of the fabled Eisner-Katzenberg trial in 1999. The initial session was held in a big conference room adjoining Fields’ office (he repped Katzenberg). My reporter assigned to the story was turned away by a surly character who pushed her aside, claiming he’d been hired to provide “security.” It was Pellicano.
I found Pellicano’s presence downright creepy; so did Katzenberg, who told Fields to send him away. It was a good judgment call; too bad it wasn’t contagious. After that incident, Pellicano kept surfacing in more situations, not less.
Now a lot of people are suffering the consequences. One of them is Brad Grey — the new “public” Brad Grey — who’s finding out that, when you run a public company, the slings and arrows are all aimed in your direction. It doesn’t matter if they’re misdirected.