Saturday, October 07, 2023

Michael Ovitz Hollywood Superagent...

...Rolex Super-Coolness...

Michael Ovitz

Hollywood Superagent

I share many stories on Jake's Rolex World about fascinating people that wear Rolex watches, but this one is different. I first became aware of Michael Ovitz back in the 1980s and was fascinated by his amazing career achievements. In my mind, Michael Ovitz is kind of the epitome or poster boy for a successful 1980s business magnate—in a good way. In the photo below we see Ovitz wearing his vintage white dial Paul Newman Daytona.

Michael Ovitz has worn Rolex watches for at least four decades. In the photo below taken in 1987, we see Michael Ovitz on the Roof of CAA (Creative Artists Agency) and notice he is wearing a yellow gold Rolex Day-Date.

Michael Ovitz just came out with a book named "WHO IS MICHAEL OVITZ?" which is pictured below. In this book Ovitz opens up and shares many interesting details about his life and takes the opportunity to clarify around many misconceptions.

Michael Ovitz began his career in Hollywood working in the mailroom at the William Morris agency and went on to co-found Creative Artists Agency with his then business partner, Ron Meyer. In the photo below that appears courtesy of Michael Ovitz, we see Ron Meyer and Michael Ovitz in the 1980s at the Hotel Du Cap-Eden-Roc in Antibes, France. Notice Ovitz is sporting his yellow gold Rolex Day-Date.

CAA was by far and away the most powerful talent agency in Hollywood in the 1980s through the 1990s. Jerry Seinfeld and Shoshanna Lonstein are pictured in 1995 below with Michael Ovitz just after he successfully renegotiated Jerry Seinfeld's record-setting per episode contract with NBC.

Michael Ovitz left CAA in late 1995 to become the president of the Walt Disney Company.

I have never met Michael Ovitz, but in many ways, it seems like I know him. In other words, I have studied his guiding principles and career. In an interesting twist of fate, I have a friend who was very close to Ovitz and would share some amazing personal insight into what made him tick. This information was in the form of positive anecdotes about principles that governed Ovitz' life. In this story, I will share some of these unique insights with you, as they had a profound effect on my personal life. 

The Art Of War

Every Battle Is Won Before It's Fought.

–Sun Tzu

One of Michael Ovitz's favorite books of all time was Sun Tzu's epic tome titled "The Art Of War." As Michael Douglas' character Gordon Gekko said in the classic 1980s movie, Wall Street, to his aspiring protege Bud Fox, who was played by Charlie Sheen: "Read Sun Tzu, The Art of War. Every battle is won before it is ever fought."

Michael Ovitz put Sun Tzu's premise from The Art of War in modern language when he said, as seen in the quote below, "You have to know where you're going to come out before you go in":

"The past is prologue...perception is EVERYTHING...To present a united front is vital. "You should never go anywhere alone. "Every detail is important.  Where do you have a meeting? What is the surrounding environment?  People who don't think about these things have a harder time in business.   It's got to be the right place.  It's got to be the right color.  It's got to be the right choice.  Everything has to be strategized.  You have to know where you're going to come out before you go in.  Otherwise, you lose."

—Michael Ovitz

Ovitz on Success

Michael Ovitz was once asked what made him successful, to which he responded: "Read 3 books:  Aristotle on Ethics, The Tao Te Ching, and watch Magic Johnson play basketball."

I recall Michael Ovitz's favorite line from The Tao Te Ching was, "Do that which result's in taking no action, and order will prevail." The idea I believe was that often times if you don't react or overreact, things have a habit of working themselves out.

I also recall Ovitz saying the amazing thing about the way Magic Johnson played basketball was that there were many times Magic could have easily shown off and scored an easy shot, but he would commonly pass the ball to his Lakers teammates to let them score.

In the photo above we see Michael Ovitz wearing a stainless steel Rolex Explorer II, and in the photo below we see Ovitz at a Lakers game with actor Jack Nickolson.

Ovitz on Risk

Michael Ovitz once said: 

"I've always felt I was on a mission.  I've always had the point of view that I could do anything...My whole life has been about risk and reward...I have always made my decisions based on two factors: Intellectual analysis and my gut.  And when they meet, that's a go for me.  That's when I see the goal.

Today Michael Ovitz is working in Silicon Valley as a venture capitalist and in the photo below we see him with Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. IN the photo below we see Michael Ovitz in 2009 wearing a stainless ceramic GMT-Master.

Ovitz on Work

Michael Ovitz is known for his hardcore work ethic. In many ways, he would make any goal he wanted to achieve into a default game. He believed in the axiom of "Destabilize and conquer." He kept his office in immaculate condition and always had a bowl with three fresh floating gardenias, which created a zen-like fresh vibe.

Ovitz was highly methodical, social and communicative. He had a system called his red-dot system in which he would maintain a long list of people he felt were important and he would call them on a regular basis and almost always spoke on a headset. He typically would call and say: "Hi ____. I'm calling to check-in." Then he would ask "What's new?" He made a habit of listening much more than speaking, and would carefully figure out what people liked and didn't. He was also very praising and one of his favorite compliments was to say, "You're the best!"

Michael Ovitz was really into giving people meaningful gifts. In his offices at CAA, they had a special gift closet, that looked like the gift wrap store in Macy's. On a regular basis, he would graciously give clients and friends superb gifts that he knew they would love. Of course, this endeared them to him even more.


One of Michael Ovitz's favorite movies is Rashomon, which was directed by Akir Kurosawa in 1950 and released in 1951. Rashomon is considered to be one of the greatest movies of all time and won an honorary award at the 24th Academy Awards in 1952.

Rashomon is a movie which is built on a fascinating plot premise that involves multiple characters and how they all witness the same event, but report it so differently, it seems like they all witnessed something entirely different. Michael Ovitz would use "Rashomon" as a metaphor when communicating how and why somebody would see something different in a negotiation.