Ray Kurtzman, 79; entertainment lawyer at Creative Artists Agency

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Ray Kurtzman, 79, an entertainment lawyer who was one of the original 20 employees when Creative Artists Agency was launched in the 1970s, died Monday at his Beverly Hills home of complications from Alzheimer’s disease, the agency announced.

Michael Ovitz hired Kurtzman from the William Morris Agency in 1978, three years after founding CAA with Morris dissidents Ron Meyer, Bill Haber, Mike Rosenfeld and Rowland Perkins. Kurtzman, who had been in the entertainment business since 1954 and was considered a mentor to Ovitz, was named head of business affairs of the fledgling talent agency. He remained a top lawyer and senior executive there until he retired in 2001.

Born May 22, 1927, in Los Angeles, Raymond Kurtzman earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing from UCLA and his law degree from USC. He was admitted to the state bar in 1954.

He began his career in the legal department at Allied Artists Pictures, became in-house counsel at Mirisch Corp. and head of business affairs at Columbia Pictures before joining William Morris, where he was a TV and motion picture attorney and business affairs executive.