Hollywood talent agency hires top AT&T; executive

Michael Ovitz, the Hollywood agent whose deals have repeatedly shaken up the worlds of entertainment and advertising, yesterday announced he is hiring a top AT&T; executive to lead Creative Artists Agency into the new multimedia world.

The executive, Robert Kavner, 50, will seek ways to tie CAA and its long list of movie and music superstars, writers and directors into the so-called information superhighway. That could include their involvement in anything from CD-ROM and movies-on-demand to computer information networks and video games.


The announcement further stokes industry speculation that Mr. Ovitz is interested in taking control of a company such as Time Warner Inc., which is heavily involved in multimedia and the interaction of sound, video and data transmission. Mr. Ovitz has scoffed at such notions, but he has been talking to AT&T; and Microsoft software mogul Bill Gates about strategic alliances between entertainment and technology companies and possible development of interactive TV commercials and programs.

"The technology driving the changes in our industry is evolving very, very quickly," Mr. Ovitz said in announcing the hiring of Mr. Kavner. "We must provide our clients a fluency and effectiveness in this new media, and Bob will lead this effort."


Mr. Kavner is AT&T;'s chief executive officer for multimedia projects and services, its former chief financial officer and the executive who led AT&T;'s acquisition of NCR Corp.

CAA's 110 agents and 400 employees deal with a roster of stars including Tom Cruise, Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman and director Steven Spielberg. CAA directors John Singleton, Oliver Stone and Francis Ford Coppola have expressed interest in possible interactive projects, and CAA archrival ICM is also scurrying to develop links to the multimedia world.

CAA has had a multimedia group of 10 people for a few years and expects to expand that.

"Over the next several years, the universe of distributed media will change profoundly, creating, I believe, a significant expansion in the entertainment and information industries," Mr. Kavner said.

A CAA spokeswoman said Mr. Kavner could also explore such things as how advertisers might reach consumers with the new media and how alliances with media companies might work.

Last year, CAA began creating dozens of commercials for Coca-Cola and figuring out which ones should play in movie theaters, on MTV and on various other networks and programs. The agency has also helped in Sony's purchase of Columbia Pictures Entertainment and Matsushita Electric Industrial's purchase of MCA Inc. And last year it advised Credit Lyonnais on its major problems with the ailing MGM studio.

For AT&T;, the move represents a major defection.

Mr. Kavner was one of four executives reporting directly to AT&T; Chairman Robert Allen and one of three who were considered possible successors to him. Mr. Allen named Victor Pelson, chairman of the global operations team, to assume multimedia responsibilities, but Mr. Kavner's position is not being filled yet.