In a blockbuster story for Friday’s edition, The New York Times accesses “government evidence” and “FBI files” that Brad Grey and Mike Ovitz “had far more direct dealings than they have publicly acknowledged” with Pellicano. The story drags the current chairman of Paramount Pictures (Grey) and the ex-Most Powerful Man in Hollywood (Ovitz) further into the Pellicano case with way more detail about what both men have reportedly told the FBI. The paper reports that Grey changed his account of events from one July 2003 interview with the FBI to another January 2004 FBI interview. It says Ovitz admitted to the FBI “he asked Pellicano for embarrassing information about 15 to 20 people who were affecting his plans to sell the business,” including Ron Meyer, David Geffen, Bernie Weinraub, and Anita Busch. The paper also says authorities are “circling” Bert Fields and the wiretapping scandal is “rapidly expanding.”
This article by David M. Halbfinger and Allison Hope Weiner will send shockwaves through Hollywood.
Back on March 15th, in my LA Weekly column, I raised the issue of whether Grey and Ovitz were suffering from what I called “Pellicano amnesia” because I knew of direct contact between them and the thug detective. Now the NYT gets down to it. The NYT reports tomorrow that “Grey told the FBI he spoke with Anthony Pellicano about two lawsuits in which Pellicano, a private detective, was working on Grey’s behalf, and that he learned information about his legal opponents directly from Pellicano.” The paper identified those legal opponents as Garry Shandling and Bo Zenga. From the FBI interviews described by the NYT, Grey claims it was Fields who hired Pellicano to investigate a rumor that ex-client Garry Shandling had a drug dependency as well as look into a media leak of legal documents to a magazine. All this took place while Fields was defending Grey in that Shandling lawsuit against him. The paper further states that Grey told the FBI that “Fields and Pellicano shared a ‘key relationship’ … and that Mr. Pellicano was ‘part of Fields’ team.'”
The NYT goes on to report that a former employee of Pellicano’s “separately told the FBI that Grey had met with the detective at least five times.” Of course, “publicly,” the paper points out, “Grey has said he was only ‘casually acquainted’ with Pellicano and that his lawyers were responsible for hiring and overseeing the detective.” Ovitz, too, has publicly pinned contact with Pellicano on lawyers. But the NYT says Ovitz has “acknowledged to the FBI that he paid Pellicano in April or May of 2002 to obtain information on 15 to 20 people who were saying negative things about him. They included former business associates and Bernard Weinraub, then a reporter for The New York Times who was reporting on the demise of a management company Ovitz had put together after he left Disney, and Anita Busch, a freelance reporter who wrote with Weinraub.” Also on the list were Ovitz’s perceived nemeses Ron Meyer, Ovitz’s former CAA partner and now president/COO of Universal Studios, and Geffen, a partner in Dreamworks.
It’s important to note, as the paper does, that both men say they are witnesses in the probe, not targets, and they have not admitted to knowing about Pellicano’s wiretapping. Ovitz’s lawyer denied to the NYT that the CAA co-founder and ex-Disney president “had given Pellicano a list of anyone to investigate other than people who had sued him.” But neither Weinraub, Busch, Meyer or Geffen had ever sued Ovitz. If Pellicano “went out and used illegal means to get information that he thought would impress Mr. Ovitz, that was not done with Mr. Ovitz’s knowledge and consent,” the lawyer told the NYT, adding that Ovitz “had consistently ‘maintained he did not authorize Pellicano to wiretap anyone.'”
There’s much more, but these are the pertinent details. Stay tuned.