When Burkle’s federal sting against a New York Post gossip freelancer hit the headlines this month, the flack issuing a statement on behalf of the L.A. billionaire was Sitrick. He’s also the flack trying to improve Ovitz’s public image. Which is why I find it strange that today’s NYT story about the Burkle/Ovitz/Pellicano dysfunction doesn’t once mention Sitrick by name. What’s really going on here?
It sure looks as if Sitrick and Company has found a new revenue stream flowing out of the Pellicano federal investigation. Then again, that scandal is making a lot of strange bedfellows. It’s bizarre to say the least that Sitrick is now representing Burkle and Ovitz who once were friends and now enemies suing each other, and who are now both talking to the FBI about how Pellicano may have played and pitted them against one another. But it’s also convenient, judging from this latest NYT article, how their stories help present one another in the best light possible considering the dark doings of the thug P.I. with whom they both had relationships. I’m told Sitrick also flacks for his good friend, the indicted lawyer Terry Christensen, whose client Kirk Kerkorian has long been a Sitrick stalwart. There, too, the two men’s take on the Pellicano case could confirm and complement each other’s. Then again, Sitrick is a Jedi master of attack-and-parry PR (which is why the Catholic Church hired him to spin its sex-abuse scandal). For Ovitz and his Nixonian enemies’ list handed to the P.I. to probe, what better bad guy to pin everything on now than devil incarnate Pellicano. For Burkle and his full-frills perks’ list showered on the P.I. as thanks, what better way to beside-the-point this close relationship than claim there was a previous shakedown attempt by Mr. Unscrupulous, Pellicano. How convenient that Pellicano is in prison and not talking.
Sitrick isn’t exactly the shy and retiring type. This chairman of the Century City firm that bills itself as a strategic communications and crisis wiz is usually bold about getting in front of a story and in front of the media. So it’s weird that neither Burkle nor Ovitz nor their present-day companies are listed as Sitrick and Company clients on its informative website. But I’m told Sitrick has been repping Burkle and his companies for the past six years, most recently as Burkle’s spokesman throughout the Jared Paul Stern scandal. And I’m also informed that Sitrick quietly agreed to work for Ovitz beginning in 2004 after the two men became neighbors in Malibu and got to talking. Meanwhile, Burkle is suing Ovitz. And, yes, the two men know each is a Sitrick client. I’m told the P.R. man is able to do that because the company is not involved in anything where the two men are adverse to one another.
But a look back reveals that Sitrick’s firm was listed as the press contact on stories about the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing of Scour Inc., that high-profile web entertainment service whose investors included Ovitz and Burkle. In 1999, the two men supposedly jointly invested in Scour in what was one of several related ventures on which they partnered. But Scour turned sour, and so did the others, like a bid to bring an NFL team to Carson, Ca., and Internet startups like CheckOut.com. The bad blood seeped into media stories about the fractured friendship. It wasn’t until 2005 that Burkle finally sued Ovitz for, among other allegations, never putting “even one cent” into the Internet ventures they did together. Now the two men are Sitrick clients talking about Pellicano.
Meanwhile, today’s NYT article is convoluted, not to mention confusing, though certainly juicy because it contains the bombshell that Burkle was the victim of another shakedown — in 2002, by none other than Pellicano. The P.I. supposedly demanded Burkle pay him $100,000-$250,000 or else The Pelican would follow through on investigating the grocery king which is what Pellicano claimed he’d been hired to do by Ovitz. Meanwhile, Ovitz alleges that the P.I. claimed he’d been hired by Burkle to investigate Ovitz. In the end, this piece doesn’t seem to provide new details about what is supposed to be the federal wiretapping probe.