EXCLUSIVE: The former super agent made his play while CEO Ted Forstmann battles life-threatening brain cancer
Updated Saturday at 7:30 PST to reflect further detail of board interaction:
The board of IMG conducted numerous frenzied calls on Friday to discuss what to do about Michael Ovitz's play to take over company management, according to two individuals with knowledge of the calls.
The calls went from COO Mike Dolan to board members including Jerry Perenchio and Irving Azoff in response to Ovitz's management maneuvering, the individuals said. The aim of the calls was to discuss how to remove Ovitz from the board, which is an advisory body of the privately-held company.
The tally was 7 – 4 to oust Ovitz, one knowledgeable individual said. By late Friday there was a plan to reconvene on Monday to formalize the decision.
But it was not immediately clear who had the authority to remove Ovitz from the board, since the CEO is currently incapacitated.
With IMG Worldwide Chairman and CEO Ted Forstmann fighting virulent cancer, board member Michael Ovitz has made a failed play to take over the giant sports talent agency, and it has backfired, TheWrap has learned.
The board is meeting on a conference call on Friday to discuss ousting Ovitz in response to his maneuvering, according to an individual close to the board. (Update: the board did not formally meet on a call, but exchanged numerous strategy calls among themselves.)
Ovitz could not be reached for comment.
IMG spokesman Jim Gallagher declined to comment on any takeover bid by Ovitz. He gave TheWrap the following statement:
"No offer for IMG has been sought and no offer has been received. IMG is not for sale."
IMG is the largest sports agency in the world, representing sports stars from Tiger Woods and Roger Federer to corporate behemoths including Nike and Rolex.
TheWrap spoke to three different individuals, all with knowledge of IMG, who confirmed the particulars of Ovitz's moves.
According to another insider, board members Jerry Perenchio and Irving Azoff – respectively the ex-CEO of Univision and executive chairman of LiveNation – are leading the charge to get Ovitz booted.
With Forstmann (pictured below) fighting a losing battle against brain cancer, Ovitz recently moved to take over the company with boardroom maneuvering, according to two individuals close to the situation.
He had hoped to create an “executive committee” within the board, to whom management would report, rather than management's current structure of reporting to Forstmann and Michael Dolan, the president and chief operating officer of the giant sports agency.
As currently configured, the board at IMG serves in an advisory capacity with no direct authority over the company's operations. Forstmann named Dolan to run the company during his illness.
Ovitz also approached senior executives at IMG to let them know he was interested in buying the company, according to an individual with knowledge.
In addition, other members of the advisory board rejected his overtures, regarding Ovitz’s behavior as deeply disloyal to Forstmann, who supported Ovitz after his Artists Management Group imploded, brought him into the IMG fold, and stuck with him in the wake of his disastrous tenure at the Walt Disney Company.
Indeed, Forstmann and Ovitz have been close for decades, going back to when the two weighed a bid for Polygram in the 1990s.
Ovitz was supported in his play for IMG by his fellow board member, the billionaire Herbert Siegel, according to two individuals. He also had the backing of Greg O’Hara, the J.P. Morgan banker who runs much of the entertainment-related merger business, and Goldman Sachs.
Forstmann purchased IMG in 2004 for $750 million. Prior to taking control, he ran the firm Forstmann Little & Co., which took over Dr. Pepper and Aerospace, among others.
editor's note: An earlier version of this story misidentified Jerry Perenchio as former chairman of Telemundo. TheWrap regrets the error.