Burkle et al


Michael Ovitz, Ron Burkle and Richard Wolpert


Various Internet ventures

Southern California

One was once considered the most powerful man in Hollywood. One is a supermarket magnate turned mega-financier. One helped hatch one of the Internet’s most popular sites.

All share a killer business acumen, and collectively represent what could become the most influential team of private investors in the L.A. broadband scene. To put it mildly, Michael Ovitz, Ron Burkle and Richard Wolpert make a powerful triumvirate.

Over the last 12 months, they have invested in or acquired five online companies, two of which are in the broadband business Beverly Hills-based search engine Scour.net and Costa Mesa-based game company GameSpy Industries.

The other three companies can easily transition from the traditional Internet, where they work now, to a broadband world. That’s one of the goals for Beverly Hills-based e-commerce company CheckOut.com, which launched this summer and has received a significant investment from Ovitz et al.

Neither the total amount of their investments to date nor the total amount they intend to invest in the future has been disclosed.

The three are looking for companies with the potential to bring significant returns on investment and with ideas that will help nurture the Internet revolution, says Wolpert, whom Burkle lured away from Disney Online a year ago to head up Yucaipa Co.’s Internet and technology ventures.

“We’re looking at businesses with huge potentials over the next couple years, and in broadband we’re looking for ideas that can fundamentally change people’s online experience,” Wolpert said.

Each brings distinctive assets to the mix. Burkle has an expertise in running businesses with low gross margins, complex logistics and targeted marketing, thanks to his grocery chains his Yucaipa bought and built the Ralphs Grocery chain before selling out last October.

Ovitz, who has been a longtime friend and investment partner of Burkle’s, represents the ultimate personification of converging media. As former super-agent and president of Walt Disney Co., he knows the creative community inside out, as well as how to structure deals.

As for Wolpert, before serving as president of Disney Online, he founded and developed about half a dozen tech companies.

“We all have equal respect for each other’s individual strengths,” Wolpert said, describing an open environment in which the three executives put their heads together over investment strategies. “And collectively, (we’ve got) all the types of expertise needed to create companies that are going to change the industry.”

Sara Fisher

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