Hollywood agents and studio executives are too cheap to shell out $20 for a copy of “Powerhouse,” the new oral history of Creative Artists Agency that’s the talk of the entertainment industry.
Instead, PDF copies of the 752-page tome have been circulating around Los Angeles and its environs, sources tell Variety. It’s an ironic move given that many of the same people enjoying the purloined copies of the book are vocally outraged about piracy … at least when it comes to movies and television. At least one rival agency bought copies of the book for all its agents, eliminating the need for sharing.
The book is very much the talk of the town. It overflows with dishy details about how Michael Ovitz used and, in some case, abused power. It provides the clearest portrait yet of co-founder Ron Meyer’s troubles with gambling. And it reveals that CAA’s brass, a group that includes Bryan Lourd and Richard Lovett, raked in more than $250 million from private equity investment in the talent agency. That last part has reportedly ruffled some feathers inside CAA’s headquarters.
Meyer, who now serves as vice chairman of NBCUniversal, is seen as the biggest beneficiary of “Powerhouse.” The book serves as a reminder of his prowess as an agent and documents his close relationships with everyone from Cher to Steven Spielberg. The NBCUniversal executive has an avuncular quality, but Miller’s story burnishes his tough guy image — recounting his youth as a street fighter and his talent for corporate jujitsu. Meyer will appear with Ovitz, his former partner and long time adversary, at a discussion of the book next month with “Powerhouse” author James Andrew Miller.
So far, CAA has not asked Miller for any corrections. In fairness, the author himself states that because his book is told in the voices of the players, there will necessarily be a “Rashomon”-like quality to the telling, one filled with contradictions and contrasting memories.
Big paydays aren’t the only thing that’s rankling some CAA readers. Some in the agency — all of whom are quoted with the exception of Lourd — were not amused that the back of the book contains a blurb from rival and WME-IMG chief Ari Emanuel. The hyper-caffeinated agent calls Lovett a “moron” and dismisses him as never having done anything innovative. Another source, however, downplays any irritation over Emanuel’s jabs, noting that he has a penchant for verbal brawling.
During CAA’s monthly meeting, days after the book hit shelves, Lovett addressed how “Powerhouse” came to be and indicated that it was not something they had initiated. He told the agents that they were informed that Miller was going forward with or without their participation, so the leadership ultimately decided to grant interviews.
Even though CAA is the subject of Miller’s book, rival agency ICM is the one fielding film and television offers. It has been shopping the rights to the history around oral town and taking meetings with producers.
Miller and CAA both declined to comment for this article.