×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Mike Ovitz and Ron Meyer Patch Things Up in ‘Powerhouse’ Talk

After months of anticipation, Ron Meyer and Mike Ovitz took the stage at the DGA Theater on Thursday night and opened up about the history of CAA.

The co-founders of the agency rarely speak on the record — much less in an open forum in front of several hundred industry members. But they agreed to do it to help promote James Andrew Miller’s new book “Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency.” Miller, who moderated the discussion presented by Live Talks Los Angeles, said it was the first time Ovitz and Meyer had appeared together in more than 20 years.

The discussion lasted nearly two hours, and at times felt more like a couple’s therapy session than a discussion of the inner workings of the entertainment business. Miller walked them through their unlikely friendship at the William Morris Agency, their total mutual dependence and deep bond from the founding of CAA in 1975 through its tremendous success of the 1980s, and the ultimate crumbling of the relationship when they parted ways in the mid-90s.

Ovitz said that through much of his career, Meyer was the only person he felt he could truly confide in.

“I trusted him completely,” he said. “We talked 30 times a day.”

The pair shared tremendous ambition, though Ovitz famously was the more aggressive of the two. The pair reminisced about working long hours, seven days a week, as they went about stealing clients from other agencies.

“For better or worse, it was a more gentlemanly business before we started,” Meyer recalled, to laughter.

“Ron and I had a goal, which was to have 100 percent market share,” Ovitz said. “I was laser-focused on the win. Ron was eminently more sensitive than I was.”

CAA rocketed to success, but by the late 80’s Ovitz was spending much of his time abroad, courting corporate clients and consulting on mergers and acquisitions. The agency business was largely left to Meyer, and their bond began to fray.

“I felt that our relationship had changed,” Meyer said. “Whether it was me not feeling worthy — it sounds silly to say that. I’m not sure what it was. I felt disenfranchised from our relationship.”

Ovitz, who walked in with the aid of a cane, acknowledged that now that he’s “an old man” he can reflect on some mistakes he made during that period.

“We were on such a roll in every aspect of the business, that I was oblivious and insensitive to a lot of the people issues,” he said. While he was spending time courting Japanese executives, “I didn’t realize that I was sacrificing relationships that were more important to me.”

Meyer acknowledged that he didn’t tell Ovitz that he was growing increasingly unhappy, but he didn’t want to disrupt the business and didn’t think Ovitz would have heard him out anyway.

“If I confronted Mike, he wouldn’t have handled it well,” Meyer said. “Relationships get sour. Things go wrong. That’s what happened.”

Ovitz acknowledged that he might have been better off if he cut back his schedule by 10 or 15 percent. Ultimately he said both he and Meyer got burned out.

“I wanted to win,” he said. “When you look back on your life, [you] realize that winning at all costs is not necessarily a great thing.”

Meyer announced that he would be leaving the agency. Ovitz feeling betrayed. Miller prodded Ovitz to talk about the parcel in Malibu that he bought, knowing that Meyer wanted to buy it, in apparent retaliation. Ovitz acknowledged that the move was “incredibly stupid and short-sighted.”

“I was pissed off,” he said. “I was getting a divorce from someone I didn’t want to get a divorce from.”

He noted that Meyer subsequently bought the property and is living there now. Asked why he bought the property, Ovitz said it was rooted in their relationship. In earlier days, he would rely on Meyer to put the brakes on his bad ideas.

“It was a giant mistake on my part,” he said. “One of the reasons I made the mistake was that I didn’t have him there to tell me not to do that.”

More Biz

  • Discovery CEO David Zaslav Sees 2018

    Discovery CEO David Zaslav Sees 2018 Compensation Soar to $129.4 Million

    Discovery Inc. president-CEO David Zaslav is once again making headlines for an enormous compensation package. Zaslav’s 2018 compensation soared to $129.44 million in 2018, fueled by stock options and grants awarded as the longtime Discovery chief signed a new employment contract last July that takes him through 2023 at the cable programming group. Zaslav received [...]

  • Jonathan Lamy RIAA

    Jonathan Lamy Stepping Down From RIAA

    Jonathan Lamy, the Recording Industry Association of America’s longtime executive VP of communications and marketing, is stepping down from his post after 17 years, he announced today. As he put it in an email to Variety, “I started back in 2002, which means it’s been 17+ years, four different RIAA CEOs, three format changes and [...]

  • Fox Layoffs

    Disney-21st Fox Layoffs: TV Divisions Brace for Deep Cuts

    A second day of layoffs has begun on the Fox lot in the wake of Disney completing its acquisition of 21st Century Fox on Wednesday. Longtime 20th Century Fox Television Distribution president Mark Kaner is among the senior executives who were formally notified with severance details on Friday morning. 21st Century Fox’s international TV sales [...]

  • anthony pellicano

    Hollywood Fixer Anthony Pellicano Released From Federal Prison

    Anthony Pellicano, the Hollywood private eye whose wiretapping case riveted the industry a decade ago, was released from a federal prison on Friday, a prison spokeswoman confirmed. Pellicano was sentenced in 2008 to 15 years, following his conviction on 78 charges of wiretapping, racketeering, conspiracy and wire fraud. He had been in custody since 2003, [...]

  • This image taken from the Twitter

    HBO’s Reaction to Trump’s ‘Game of Thrones’ Campaign

    Everyone wants a piece of the “Game of Thrones” lemon cake. From Bud Light to Red Bull the world of Westeros is open to a lot of brand partnerships, unless you’re using that iconic typeface to push a political agenda. In November of 2018 President Donald Trump unveiled a “Thrones” inspired poster with the words [...]

  • Leaving Neverland HBO

    'Leaving Neverland' Lawsuit Proves to Be a Judicial Hot Potato

    The Michael Jackson estate sued HBO last month for airing the documentary “Leaving Neverland,” which accuses the late King of Pop of serial child sexual abuse. Since then, the case has had a difficult time finding a judge to handle it. Three federal judges have recused themselves in the last week, citing potential financial conflicts [...]

  • Members of the public mourn at

    Guy Oseary’s New Zealand Fundraiser Nears $150,000, Continues Raising Money

    In the wake of the horrific shootings at New Zealand mosques last week that killed some 49 people, Maverick chief Guy Oseary launched a GoFundMe campaign to “support those affected by this tragedy at this very difficult time,” and began it with an $18,000 donation. Boosted by donations from many celebrities — including Amy Schumer, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content