Vanity Fair has catapulted a Wrap scoop about Michael Ovitz's failed takeover of IMG this fall into the realm of tragi-comedy.
In a lengthy piece in the magazine's upcoming issue, author William Cohan confirms TheWrap's reporting that Ovitz abortively tried to take over Ted Forstmann's sports agency as the chairman and chief executive officer (and Ovitz friend) battled brain cancer, to which he succumbed this week.
But Cohan adds that Ovitz flew from California to New York after news of the coup broke and went in person to the apartment of Chief Operating Officer Mike Dolan at The Carlyle to beg to be allowed to stay on the board.
The scene is the stuff of high comedy.
Cohan writes: "'Ovitz goes to the concierge [of the Carlyle] and he says, ‘I want to see Mike Dolan.’ ‘Who are you, sir?’ ‘I’m Michael.’ And the concierge calls up and Mrs. Dolan answers the phone, and the concierge says, ‘Mrs. Dolan, I have Michael here.’ Michael happens to be the name of Mike and Dorothy’s son. So Mrs. Dolan says, ‘Well, put him on.’ Well, on comes Michael but not the Michael she expected."
The article continues:
"And the conversation goes along like this: ‘I need to see Mike. He is ruining my life. My wife and children are incredibly upset. Why is he doing this to me? Why won’t he talk to me? I haven’t done anything wrong,’ so loud to the point that Mrs. Dolan says to him, ‘Look, first of all, Mike’s not here. Secondly, I don’t think you should be saying these things in the lobby of a public building in front of people.’"
To no avail. Ovitz was booted from the board, as TheWrap reported exclusively at the time.
Also read: Michael Ovitz Booted From IMG Board
Mrs. Dolan, it seems, was worried Ovitz’s frenzied call would result in a Page Six item, and further embarrassment for all concerned.
Ovitz does not deny the Carlyle trip, though he does deny raising his voice or saying the situation was “ruining” his life.
There’s more juicy nuggets in Cohan’s piece, which frequently name drops TheWrap’s reporting. (Thank you, VF!)
Also read: Ted Forstmann, CEO of IMG, Dead at 71
Ovitz continues to refute reports he was making a play for control of IMG or that he was working, as TheWrap reported, in collusion with J.P. Morgan banker Greg O’Hara to try to force a sale. O’Hara also denies talking to Ovitz about a deal.
In addition to sowing seeds of discontent among board members about Dolan’s pick of a CFO and the compensation package he proposed for the top executive, Ovitz was aware of a key provision in the firm’s partnership agreement that could have triggered a sale.
That provision, Cohan writes, gave the partners, of which Ovitz was one, “the right to have an orderly asset liquidation.”
Presumably Ovitz could have then swooped in, lined up investors and gained control of one of the major players in sports and entertainment.
That would have given the deposed “most powerful man in Hollywood” — a man who has spent nearly a decade in the agency wilderness following the failure of his Artist Management Group — a new perch from which to re-establish himself over the media landscape.
It was not to be.
Ovitz was removed from the board, Forstmann died, and, if Cohan’s report is accurate, IMG has begun a “dual process” under which it will either launch an initial public offering or be sold to a higher bidder.
Ovitz may have started the battle, but he lost the corporate war.