IMG Fallout: JPMorgan’s Greg O’Hara Out After Ovitz Maneuver (Exclusive)

O’Hara angered bank vice chairman James Lee when he associated with Michael Ovitz to take over the sports agency

Last Updated: February 1, 2012 @ 5:06 PM

Gregory O’Hara, the head of JPMorgan Chase’s special investment group and once a rising star at the bank, is leaving, TheWrap has learned.

"He's going to do something different," said Joe Evangelisti, a spokesman for the bank.

O'Hara (pictured far left) had risen to be chief investment officer of the special investments group, but angered JPMorgan Vice Chairman James Lee (pictured far right) when he associated with Michael Ovitz to take over IMG, three individuals with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap. The deal was attemped as IMG CEO Teddy Forstmann lay dying of cancer. 

“Jimmy Lee took him out. IMG was the final straw,” said one of three individuals.

Reached by phone, O’Hara declined to comment on his departure. Evangelisti denied that Lee's displeasure was the reason for O'Hara's leaving the bank. "That’s not true," he said, but would provide no further details.

An individual in O'Hara's camp said he was raising more than $1 billion, including funds from JPMorgan, to buy a global travel company.

Also read: Michael Ovitz IMG Takeover Bid Fails, Board Aligns 7-4 for Ouster

TheWrap exclusively reported the failed takeover attempt last September. Ovitz was subsequently booted from the board of the giant sports agency; Forstmann died a few weeks later.

Lee was one of Forstmann’s close friends and had warned O’Hara that conversations about an IMG takeover were inappropriate, according to a Vanity Fair article last month.

O’Hara denied that he was involved in a takeover attempt. “You can’t buy the company,” he told the magazine, though in fact a clause permitting a sale was triggered with the death of Forstmann. COO Mike Dolan has since taken over IMG.

O’Hara is seeking funding to buy a global travel company, individuals with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap.

The departure is a major comedown for a banker many viewed as a golden boy at JPMorgan.  O’Hara had forged close Hollywood relationships and sought to become involved in merger and acquisition deals, such as the sale of Miramax by the Walt Disney Co. and new funding for the independent studio Relativity Media.

Also read: Michael Ovitz Booted From IMG Board (Exclusive)

But the Relativity relationship also heralded problems for O’Hara. 

Last spring, he drew attention when he spearheaded a $700-million deal to buy Elliott Associates’ minority stake in Relativity. In the proposed deal, JPMorgan would have put up a chunk of that sum and brought into a consortium of other major investors.

During that same period, O'Hara bought a vacation house with Relativity CEO Ryan Kavanaugh in Yellowstone, and several months ago bought out the Hollywood mogul's interest. The purchase was the subject of discussion within the bank.

But O'Hara said there was nothing untoward about the private purchase despite the fact that he was leading a deal at the time. Another individual told TheWrap that O'Hara got clearance for the purchase from a JPMorgan committee.

The Relativity deal failed to materialize after months of negotiations.

Instead supermarket magnate Ron Burkle bought an interest in the studio. JPMorgan's Hollywood deals are generally overseen by the bank's west coast office, which is led by John Miller.

Prior to joining JPMorgan, O’Hara helped oversee $11 billion in investments ranging from healthcare to media through One Equity Partners.

He joined the investment arm in 2005. O'Hara previously served as a senior vice president of Sabre, Inc. from 1997 to 2000 and as an associate with Perot Systems Corp. from 1995 to 1996. He founded Advanced Systems International and served as its president from 1991 to 1995.  O'Hara worked on various private equity projects From 2000 to June 2003.


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