Ex-Disney exec Michael Ovitz paid Pellicano to probe press

Wed Apr 9, 2008 5:17pm EDT
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Michael Ovitz, once one of the most powerful players in Hollywood, testified on Wednesday that he hired private eye Anthony Pellicano to investigate journalists writing negative stories about him.

But the ex-president of the Walt Disney Co and former talent manager said he never ordered Pellicano to threaten the journalists and knew nothing about illegal wiretaps or unauthorized background checks.

"I never instructed him (Pellicano) to do anything illegally," Ovitz told the Los Angeles jury at the trial of the so-called private eye to the stars.

Ovitz, 61, the former head of the Creative Artists Agency, had a brief but acrimonious stint as a top executive of the Walt Disney Co in the mid-1990s which ended in his dismissal.

He was the latest in a string of movie stars and industry executives, including Chris Rock and Paramount Pictures CEO Brad Grey, who have testified that they hired Pellicano, or were spied on by him, during disputes involving cheating spouses, paternity claims and show business contracts.

None have been charged and all deny knowing Pellicano was doing anything wrong but the lengthy trial has laid bare the dirty side of doing business in Hollywood.

Pellicano, 63, has pleaded not guilty to wiretapping telephones and bribing police and telephone company officials on a vast scale to run illegal checks on those causing trouble for his rich and famous clients.

He could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted.   Continued...

<p>File photo shows Michael Ovitz, former Disney President, arriving at the Sun Valley Resort in Sun Valley, Idaho July 10, 2007. REUTERS/Rick Wilking</p>