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Ovitz

Michael Ovitz

Age: 50

Net Worth: $400 million

Source of Wealth: Entertainment

Residence: Brentwood

The astonishing rise and rapid fall of Michael Ovitz could easily be the subject of a three-volume epic. And it may well be, someday.

Everybody seemed to be Ovitz’s friend when, as head of Creative Artists Agency, he was touted as the most powerful man in Hollywood. But since December’s messy separation from Walt Disney Co., the now-jobless Ovitz no longer inspires the kind of fear that he once did. His critics are now out into the open; attacks surface in the entertainment press almost weekly.

Many of Ovitz’s critics key on his huge severence package from Disney, which is worth anywhere from $70 million to $140 million depending on the future value of his stock options.

Ovitz lasted only 14 months as Disney’s president before voluntarily stepping down because of an inability to consolidate power at the huge company and a falling-out with his former friend, Disney Chief Executive Michael Eisner. The two men reportedly have not spoken since Ovitz’s departure.

The hot question in Hollywood now is, What will Ovitz, who founded the phenomenally successful CAA before defecting to Disney, do next?

Last month, he hired Disney’s former strategic planning director, David Maisel, to act as his investment advisor, leading to speculation that he plans to launch a multimedia company.

He also has been spending a great deal of money in the past few months. Besides his much-heralded $25 million donation to UCLA, Ovitz spent $5.5 million on a 500-acre ranch in Aspen (which is located near a home owned by Eisner, surprisingly enough) and a $5 million parcel of land in Malibu.

According to a story in Time magazine, the latter purchase came after Ron Meyer, now president of Universal Studios Inc. and a former partner with Ovitz at CAA, had confided in Ovitz that he was interested in buying the land. Two days later, Ovitz reportedly pre-empted his ex-partner and bought it himself.

Dan Turner

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