AD AGE POWER 50;ENTERTAINMENT;OVITZ'S SAVVY AND MEYER'S MANAGERIAL STRENGTH TURNING THE FUN/FANTASY WORLD UPSIDE-DOWN

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There was a power shift in Hollywood this summer, as Michael Ovitz and Ron Meyer left their top positions at a hot talent agency for high-level positions at separate, hot studios.

Now, as executives of the Walt Disney Co.-Capital Cities/ABC tandem and Seagram Co.'s MCA (Universal) subsidiary, respectively, former Creative Artists Agency co-founders Ovitz and Meyer have at their command two organizations with similar core business interests: film and TV production, recorded entertainment and theme parks.

Accordingly, their missions are the same: Not only will they oversee the business operations of their respective firms, they'll participate in marketing their brands across the many interests of their companies.

At their disposal will be assets that combined for $752 million in measured-media ad spending last year.

Mr. Ovitz, 48, turned down the presidency of MCA in June but surprised the entertainment industry two months later by accepting the title of president of Disney. In this position, Mr. Ovitz commands Disney's business segments.

These segments-filmed entertainment; licensing; theme parks and resorts; and Cap Cities/ABC's media outlets, once Disney's purchase of that company is completed-combined for $585 million in measured ad spending last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Mr. Ovitz's talents, along with his advertising experience from CAA's highly visible work for Coca-Cola Co.'s flagship brand, would seem to portend continued heavy marketing activity for Disney, a company already regarded as a power marketer.

"Disney's the greatest marketer anyway, so how much more [marketing will occur] is hard to say," says Jessica Reif, an analyst at Merrill Lynch. "Ovitz quietly had a tremendous marketing machine at CAA, even though he supposedly shunned the limelight."

In the entertainment business, Mr. Ovitz is best known as a dealmaker who has strong ties with creative talent. But he also is a reputed conceptual thinker who understands how new technology, marketing and advertising will work together in the future.

That mindset complements the talents of Disney Chairman-CEO Michael Eisner-thinking creatively and looking for other ways to exploit Disney assets.

Meanwhile, MCA, under the stewardship of new president Mr. Meyer, 50, and owner Seagram, is moving more slowly.

The company appears to have taken several steps to solidify its core business interests before delving deeply into marketing their holdings across different avenues.

Recent moves within MCA's film division indicate the company will be emphasizing major-star, major-budget films. Despite producing this summer's "Waterworld," a film better known for its production cost than its plot, MCA/Universal as of late has generally made films with more moderate budgets.

Among its more successful releases in 1995 are "Apollo 13" and "Casper.

Projects inked in the last few months include a $20 million pact with actor Jim Carrey for the comedy "Liar, Liar," due by Christmas 1996, and a three-picture, $60 million deal with Sylvester Stallone.

These pacts would appear to signal heavy ad spending for movies. MCA/Universal spent $153 million last year to support its films, according to CMR.

In addition, MCA is looking to strengthen its theme-park business. The marketer, along with a British leisure development company, is building Universal City Florida, a theme park and entertainment complex adjacent to Universal Studios Florida scheduled to open in 1999.

Although Mr. Meyer heads a company that totaled $177 million in media ad spending last year, he's better known in Hollywood for his people skills.

With a reputation of someone who's trustworthy and accessible, Mr. Meyer is the exception in a business where being cutthroat and ruthless has emerged as the rule.

Unlike Mr. Ovitz, Mr. Meyer isn't known as a visionary or someone with broad business experience.

That may work against him at MCA, which under its previous ownership has been slow to make moves to position itself for the future, such as incorporating new media into the mix.

Some observers nevertheless believe Mr. Meyer's managerial skills and intuition are all the qualifications needed to be No.*2 to Seagram Chairman-CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr., who will make MCA's bigger strategic decisions.

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Michael Ovitz

Walt Disney Co.

Capital Cities/ABC

Ad budget: $585 million

Agency roster: Disney: Western International Media; Hal Riney & Partners; Rubin Postaer & Associates; Leo Burnett USA; ICG. Capital Cities/ABC: Grey Advertising; Wieden & Kennedy.

Career: A UCLA graduate, he began his talent agency career in the mailroom of the William Morris Agency in 1968 before co-founding Creative Artists Agency with Ron Meyer. After first negotiating with Seagram Co. to join MCA/Universal, talks that fell apart in June, Mr. Ovitz signed up with Disney.

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MCA/Universal

Ad budget: $177 million

Agency: DDB Needham Worldwide.

Career: Mr. Meyer is a high-school dropout and a former Marine who started his talent agency career in the mailroom of Paul Kohner Agency in 1965 and joined William Morris Agency in 1970. Five years later, he helped Michael Ovitz co-found Creative Artists Agency, with a top-notch talent list. He was named president of MCA in July, after talks between Seagram Co., MCA's new owner, and Mr. Ovitz collapsed.

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