By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Carson and Glimcher had a falling-out, but Ovitz brought him back as a real estate partner, complete with his vital state permits (and state-approved toxic-abatement plans) for the site cleanup and construction of the previously planned mall.
Here's where Ovitz obviously did his homework. He knew that the site was available, the $35 million site-cleanup plan was approved by officialdom, and he already had an in with Glimcher, with whom he's now formed a separate real estate holding company that city officials refer to as "The Glimcher-Ovitz Entity." Hence the retail-sports connection: Glimcher finally gets his mall and Ovtiz gets his stadium.
But why Ovitz? How did Hollywood's onetime most powerful agent get to turning deals for football stadiums? Well, for one thing, he needed something to do. "America's fixer," as Ovitz liked to be known, was in a slump after he got canned two years ago as the number-two manager of Disney just 16 months into the job. Ovitz did capture a nine-figure platinum parachute from Disney (to the rage of stockholders), but suddenly, at age 50, his perfect career had leaped into a void: He spent ever more time in New York, that perennial court of exile for Hollywood titans unaccustomed to not having their calls returned.
Now he's back in town, albeit in pro sports, which is probably the most competitive field in which he's never before labored. But he's working just as he's always worked. Noel Koch, in the Columbia Journalism Review, quoted a source who said, "He has a great instinct for the weak spot in any chain of command." Witness how he worked Sweeney and Fajardo.
Will Ovitz succeed? Will his monstrous pink piece of 21st Century Mission Kitsch - designed by Planet Hollywood architect John Rockwell - actually loom over the 110-405 intersection? Will its proposed "mission" bells chime six rings for every home-team touchdown, making the South Bay sound like the coronation scene from Boris Godunov? Will Don Kott give away Carson NFL sweatshirts with every new Escort he sells? Hard to say.
For besides the other contenders for a team, there's Ovitz's own track record - the reality as opposed to the hype. Writer Koch noted that Ovitz's media coverage has been so deferential that few recall how participants in some of his biggest deals have taken billion-dollar baths. You could ask Sony how it came out in its deal to purchase Columbia Pictures from Coca-Cola in 1989 or how Matsushita benefited from its purchase of MCA a year later.
Yet Ovitz has been the king of entertainment packaging ever since he founded Creative Artists Associates in 1975 to serve as agent for the rich and famous of Hollywood. Maybe he can bring to sports the packaging he brought to all-star film productions like Rain Man. Of course, some former associates question whether Ovitz's follow-through has ever quite matched his magnificent initial pitch.
This is something that the future of the Hacienda Stadium may or may not demonstrate. But in Carson there's a lot of emotion - hardy skepticism, along with some soaring hopes - for this project. In the past, Ovitz has been able to shelter his mistakes by media manipulation and because his industry-hotshot victims have had reason to keep quiet. If he fails here - if there's a major screwup in the site cleanup, say, or the new team's owner pulls out after a few years, a la Al Davis - 90,000 angry Carsonites will be looking for someone to blame. And then Mr. Power Lunch may have to go farther than New York to find someplace to hide.