Saturday, October 08, 2016

Powerhouse by James Andrew Miller

Powerhouse by James Andrew Miller was an interesting oral history on Creative Artists Agency, the firm that, along with other businesses it's in such as corporate consulting and marketing services, represents many Hollywood and professional sports stars.

The agency was started in 1975 by five agents who left William Morris and Miller particularly covers Michael Ovitz, one of the five and the man who became CAA president. There was great detail in the book about how Ovitz to further his career both prepared and hustled, with anecdotes about him as a junior staffer at William Morris noticing that the company president always came back in after dinner, so Ovitz would make sure he was also there, ready and willing to help with anything needed, and out of this became the assistant to the president at twenty-two years old. In terms of Ovitz's preparation and ferreting out of information, Miller devotes quite a bit of space in the book to how CAA got into corporate advising when they figured out a Japanese corporation interested in buying a studio and set up the deal, collecting $46M in fees in the process.

Also interesting in Powerhouse was material around how Ovitz and Ron Meyer, one of the other co-founders, had styles and strengths that very much complimented one another and then around how Ovitz seemed to become corrupted by the power he held and just how messy his leaving CAA was. He had negotiated a deal to leave CAA and take over Universal, but made things so difficult the deal eventually fell apart and Ron Meyer was offered and took the job. Ovitz then left to work under Michael Eisner at Disney, with that relationship fairly immediately running into trouble and Ovitz out within about a year.

The book's later part covers what CAA has become since Ovitz, with it a powerful corporation in huge competition with the agencies UTA and the much larger WWE/IMG.

I found Miller's book on ESPN, These Guys Have All the Fun, to be more interesting due to the subject matter, but Powerhouse was a solid read for anyone interested in the machinations of power and the entertainment world.