The latest in a sequence of lists of recently-read books, listed in reverse chronological order.
- Michael Ovitz : Who is Michael Ovitz? A Memoir. USA: WH Allen. This is a fascinating and well-written autiobiography by the co-founder and driving force behind Creative Artists Agency. CAA grew from nothing to dominate the agency business in movies and TV, and then entered M&A consultancy and advertising. I always admired the chutzpah of this strategy and marveled at its success. The book explains how CAA’s creative bundling of the products of its writers, actors, musicians, directors and producers enabled it to grow as an agency, and also enabled the diversification: the expertise gained in strategizing and financially evaluating creative bundles was used to value Hollywood studios (with their back catalogues) as potential acquisition targets. Likewise, the creativity in bundling and the access to diverse talent was used to design successful advertisements. What surprised me reading this book was that the diversification ended after just two acquisition assignments and one advertising project (Coca Cola’s polar bears). The key reason for this seems to have been the opposition of Mr Ovitz’s partners and colleagues at CAA, despite the handsome and arguably unearnt rewards his efforts brought many of them. No good deed ever goes unpunished, it seems. // The book also presents his experiences as President at Disney. Although of course we only hear his side of that story, he does seem to have been undermined from before he even began work there. // Overall, the writing is articulate and reflective, and he seems to have grown personally through his career and his apparent failures. I greatly admire his continued desire and willingness to learn new things – new skills, new businesses, new industries, new cultures, new hobbies. Doing this requires rare, personal courage. Few people in American business were as willing as he was to immerse themselves in Japanese culture when doing business in Japan, for instance. One characteristic Mr Ovitz does not ever display is smugness, and this absence is admirable.