Did Ovitz Spy on Former Protégés?

According to the federal indictment that came down yesterday against private detective Anthony Pellicano, some of his spying concerned two talent agents, Kevin Huvane and Bryan Lourd of the Creative Artists Agency.

Huvane and Lourd succeeded Michael Ovitz, one of the founders of CAA, when he left to join the Walt Disney Company in 1995.

The question now: was Ovitz the Pellicano client for whom the spying on Huvane and Lourd occurred? Repeated calls to Ovitz’s attorney, Bart Williams, have not been returned.

The government says that on Aug. 10, 2001, Pellicano and Los Angeles Police Department officer Mark Arneson committed identity theft against Huvane and Lourd. This count includes computer fraud and unauthorized access to computer data.

It’s no revelation that Pellicano worked for Ovitz. Writers Howard Blum and John Connolly reported in Vanity Fair last year that Pellicano was allegedly hired by entertainment lawyer Bert Fields to do some detective work for Ovitz. Fields remains vehement, however, that he did not authorize wiretapping or anything else illegal.

But the timing of Pellicano’s information hunt on the pair of agents is curious indeed. It may just be a coincidence, but during the week when Arneson was searching for anything embarrassing that could be used against Huvane and Lourd, Ovitz’s company, Artists Management Group, was in terrible trouble. AMG would eventually be sold for peanuts to another management company, The Firm.

But back on Aug. 9, 2001, Variety published a story that the television arm of AMG, called ATG, had laid off 18 of its 38 employees and was hoping to cut a deal with Paramount. That deal never materialized.

Ovitz, it was widely reported at the time, was angry with his former CAA protégés. The company he’d founded and grown into a powerhouse refused to do business with him, and Ovitz — famous for being ruthless and vindictive — was not pleased.

Of course, it may just be a coincidence that Pellicano and Arneson did searches concerning Huvane and Lourd on Aug. 10, right in the middle of the ATG/AMG meltdown.

According to the federal indictment, “Defendant Pellicano was responsible for securing clients who were willing and able to pay large sums for the purpose of obtaining personal information of a confidential, embarrassing, or incriminating nature regarding other individuals, including opponents and witnesses in criminal or civil litigation, who became [Pellicano and Arneson’s] investigative targets.”

We can only hope that Pellicano, Arneson and the five other defendants in the government’s case stand trial. Arneson, the indictment says, has worked for Pellicano since 1974.

Craig Stevens, the Beverly Hills cop Pellicano is alleged to have used for similar dirty work, was allegedly in his pocket since 1982. Their testimony alone will fill more seats than "Brokeback Mountain" and "King Kong," combined.