Former dealmaker, reporter testify in L.A. trial

Thu Apr 10, 2008 3:49am EDT
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By Leslie Simmons

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - In the most dramatic day of testimony to date, former Hollywood powerbroker Michael Ovitz and former entertainment reporter Anita Busch took the stand Wednesday in the government's wiretapping and racketeering trial against private eye Anthony Pellicano.

Both had ties to Pellicano and to each other: Ovitz, the client; Busch, the alleged victim.

Ovitz told a reasoned, straightforward story about why he hired a gumshoe to gather dirt on his detractors; Busch gave a riveting account of her reactions to months of intimidation, which she says originated with the former uber-agent.

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.

Ovitz took the stand first, wearing a dark blue suit with a lavender-gray tie, and unapologetically told the jury that he hired Pellicano in 2002 to dig up "embarrassing" things on Busch and New York Times reporter Bernard Weinraub. Busch, former editor of The Hollywood Reporter, was freelancing for the Times and with Weinraub penned stories about Ovitz's troubled Artists Management Group.

Ovitz considered the stories damaging to his company, which at the time was the subject of three lawsuits. Ovitz also wanted to sell the outfit and felt the bad press would influence top bidders the Firm and Paradigm.

When asked why he wanted to find embarrassing information on the reporters, Ovitz told the jury, "It was an extraordinarily difficult time for the company and me. We had several hundred employees, we had clients and we were in a constant state of negative press fueled by lies and innuendoes," he said.

He added, "It was wildly embarrassing to myself and my family. All I wanted was a graceful exit from the business and to leave people with jobs."   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>