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Inheriting CAA Mantle Will Put Young Turks to the Test

TIMES STAFF WRITER

They’re called the Young Turks, and they are a tight-knit fraternity of five hyper-ambitious thirtysomething agents who are about to inherit the mantle of Creative Artists Agency, Hollywood’s largest talent agency.

The imminent changing of the guard at CAA will mark a dramatic coming of age for the aggressive quintet--Jay Moloney, Richard Lovett, David (Doc) O'Connor, Kevin Huvane and Bryan Lourd--who have been handpicked and groomed over the years by their mentors, Michael S. Ovitz and Ron Meyer. The five are expected to share ownership of CAA with several of their senior colleagues.

Today, the agency is expected to announce that three of the older agents--motion picture department heads Rick Nicita and Jack Rapke and TV department head Lee Gabler--will become co-chairmen of the firm, with Lovett assuming the post of president. Ovitz, the current chairman, is leaving to become president of Walt Disney Co.

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The Turks--given that handle in 1991 when they first appeared on Premiere magazine’s “power list"--are smart, talent-savvy workaholics who have all grown up in the business over the past 10 or more years. As hard as they work, they play. They’ve built strong personal relationships with the clients they represent, and go on adventure-seeking vacations with the high-powered executives and producers they sell to. They’re often spotted at more than one party or premiere an evening. They live privileged lives on a par with those of their rich and famous clients, getting paid as much as $1 million a year.

“Their work and their lives are inextricably intertwined,” says a close friend and business associate. “They have Ph.Ds in personality. Even though they’re gouging you, you want to go out and play with them so much.”

Says another colleague: “They could inherit the Earth--that’s how they define themselves when they get up in the morning. They have unadulterated ambition and drive.”

Says producer Peter Guber, who hangs out with the guys at his Aspen ranch, his Malibu beach house and on his yacht: “They’re less into the ’30 years and the gold watch’ and more into camaraderie, having a good time, having good relationships with their clients and making a lot of money.”

None of the five Turks would be interviewed for this story. It is a particularly sensitive moment at CAA’s Beverly Hills headquarters, where intense discussions over questions of management and ownership have been taking place. All three current owners--Ovitz and Meyer, who was recently named president of MCA, and Bill Haber--are selling their stakes.

With the changing of the guard at hand, one source suggests, “the Turks will now be put to the real test.”

The five agents began to form an alliance soon after Lourd and Huvane joined CAA from William Morris about eight years ago.

By virtue of the clients they represent and their savvy, the quintet not only wields power within CAA, but with Hollywood’s top studios and producers.

Their collective talent roster boasts of many of Hollywood’s biggest stars and filmmakers, among them Brad Pitt, Hugh Grant, Uma Thurman, Chris O'Donnell, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Tim Burton, Tony Scott and Mike Nichols.

Dennis Miller, executive vice president of Sony Pictures Entertainment and a friend who vacationed with the Turks this past May, believes that “they will be immensely successful because they are generationally matched with today’s leading stars.”

But Miller says that at the most basic level, they are good agents: “They get top dollar for their clients, and in the end you want to do business with these guys.”

Producer Dawn Steel concurs that while “nobody likes to be on the other side of the desk [as a buyer] and told ‘no’ by Kevin Huvane that I can’t have Brad Pitt, I still respect him for the way he’s guiding [the client’s] career.”

Outside of work, the Turks frequently socialize with one another and vacation together.

Yet the Turks reportedly loathe being characterized as a group. Says Guber: “They are five very distinct individuals who all have different MOs and personalities and who have cut their own paths.”

Moloney, who at 30 is the youngest of the group, is its most polished--some would say slick. It’s hard to imagine that he once worked six days a week on a commercial fishing boat in a small town on the Oregon coast, where he went to high school. A native of Malibu, he interned at CAA for agent Fred Specktor while a film student at USC. After dropping out of college, he went to work full-time at the agency, becoming Ovitz’s assistant when O'Connor was promoted to agent. Of the five, he remains the closest to Ovitz, benefiting from his mentoring and introductions to such big clients as Scorsese, Spielberg and Burton.

Moloney is the most visible and is publicly regarded as the ringleader of the pack. But when Ovitz announced his impending departure for Disney a week ago, Lovett, 35, was chosen by his compatriots and others on CAA’s transition team to coordinate all internal meetings. His friends describe him as smart and possessed of a quick wit. Lovett, who was born in Oakland, teaches a weekly class at Venice High School, where he initiated a mentoring program three years ago.

Like Moloney, he started his career at CAA as an assistant to Specktor, and he is a big “signer,” representing such clients as Tom Hanks, Michael Keaton and Grant.

O'Connor, 37, who represents a number of major screenwriters and such big names as Robert Redford and Sean Connery, is considered the most intellectual of the group. “He doesn’t get flustered. He’s low-key, bright and by far the Ronnie Meyer of the group. He’s the moral center--the heart of the five,” a senior studio executive says.

Lourd, 34, and Huvane, 35, are described as the most reserved of the bunch.

Huvane, a native New Yorker who has a political science degree from Fordham University, is married to CAA talent agent Ruth Ann Huvane. Among the clients he has brought to CAA are Meryl Streep, Keanu Reeves and Pitt. Jesuit-trained and -educated, he once worked as an elevator operator and bellman at a Manhattan hotel.

The Louisiana-born Lourd is described by his peers as soft-spoken and extremely bright. He’s dedicated to his clients, who include Ethan Hawke and Thurman.

Critics of the five say they’re too cocky and cliquish for their own good. Not everyone in town is convinced they’ll survive infighting among their older colleagues.

“Ronnie and Mike were the ultimate safety net,” suggests one source. “They shouldn’t overestimate how strong they are, since some of their strength came from them.”

Says another who knows them well: “They enjoy enormous goodwill with talent. At the same time, they’re ill-equipped without [Ovitz] around to adjust to a world of business plans . . . and all of the executive activities associated with running a business.”

Steel acknowledges that although some people in town don’t like them, she insists that “it’s a natural human reaction to resent the people who have power. That’s why some people didn’t like Michael Ovitz.”

*

Times staff writer James Bates contributed to this report.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Agents of Change

Jay Moloney

At 30, the youngest Turk. Top clients of the 13-year veteran of CAA include Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Chris O'Donnell. The native Californian is ambitious and slick.

Richard Lovett

The 35-year-old University of Wisconsin grad joined CAA 12 years ago as Fred Spector’s assistant. Top clients include Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant and Michael Keaton. He’s considered the most aggressive of the Turks and a standout leader.

Kevin Huvane

The 35-year-old came to CAA 8 years ago from the William Morris Agency. Top clients include Keanu Reeves, Meryl Streep and Geena Davis. He is a native of New York and the only married Turk. Generally considered more reserved and less accessible than his compatriots.

Bryan Lourd

This 34-year-old was plucked from William Morris and singled out for stardom at CAA. Top clients include Ethan Hawke, Woody Harrelson and Uma Thurman. A soft-spoken Southerner who’s edgy and hip.

David (Doc) O'Connor

At 37 the eldest Turk. Top clients include Robert Redford, Sean Connery and writer Paul Attanasio. Dartmouth-educated and an all New England-all Ivy lacrosse player.


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