Disney names Ovitz president

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Walt Disney Co. shocked the entertainmentand media industries once again by hiring Hollywood superagent Michael Ovitz aspresident. Mr. Ovitz technically replaces Frank Wells, Disney'sbehind-the-scenes moneyman and power broker who died early last year and whoseresponsibilities had been handled since then by Disney Chairman-CEO MichaelEisner.

The hiring of Mr. Ovitz, who will assume his new duties on Oct. 1, comes exactlytwo weeks after Disney surprised the world with its seemingly overnightacquisition of Capital Cities/ABC, the second biggest merger in U.S. history.Mr. Ovitz turned down a similar post at MCA earlier this summer after muchspeculation that his departure from CAA was guaranteed. That job eventually wentto Ron Meyer, Mr. Ovitz's second-in-command at Creative Artists Agency, thehigh-powered talent agency that both men founded in the mid '70s.

Monday's announcement will set Hollywood on its ear and undoubtedly keep itreeling for weeks to come. What's in play: the future of the Coca-Cola Co. adaccount at CAA, which the marketer chose chiefly because of Mr. Ovitz'sconnections; the future of Tele-TV, the interactive TV joint venture of CAA andthree Baby Bell companies that Mr. Ovitz is credited with putting together; andthe future of CAA itself, which has seen its founder and most importantexecutives jump ship in the past two months. CAA's clients include Tom Cruiseand David Letterman.

Mr. Ovitz will be responsible for all three operating divisions of the company,plus Capital Cities/ABC, when the merger is completed. A statement releasedMonday said, in part: "I have been impressed with the strength of the Disneyteam during the past year and look forward with great enthusiasm to joining suchan imaginative and talented group and working with Michael to combine the assetsof Capital Cities/ABC and Disney into a very special kind of company fortomorrow's world.''

Copyright August 1995 Crain Communications Inc.

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