Michael Ovitz's rapid rise from the tour bus to the executive suite reads like the story line of a Disney movie.
So it was fitting when he was named president of the Walt Disney Co. on Monday, making Hollywood's leading dealmaker second-in-command of the world's biggest entertainment empire.Ovitz, who began his career as a tour guide at Universal Studios, will leave his job as chairman of Creative Artists Agency, which he co-founded, to become president of Disney on Oct. 1.
He will run all three of Disney's business units: theme parks, movies and consumer products. The job also will include overseeing Capital Cities-ABC once the $19 billion takeover is complete.
Ovitz, 48, fills a position that has been vacant since Frank G. Wells was killed in a helicopter crash in April 1994. He will work under his longtime friend, Disney Chairman and CEO Michael Eisner.
"As far as I'm concerned, we'll be interchangeable," Eisner said. "Frankly, instead of having two arms and two eyes, we now have four arms and four eyes."
Analysts considered Ovitz a prize catch.
"It assures that they have access to one of the most well-connected and knowledgeable people in the entertainment business," said Harold Vogel, an analyst with Cowen & Co. in New York.
Hollywood's reaction was shock.
"Hollywood loves it - and hates it. In Hollywood, they worship power and they fear power. Guess which studio is pulsating with power today?" said Bishop Cheen, a Disney analyst.