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What's Good for Ovitz Is Good for America

Economy: The Disney payoff could set the corporate standard. BofA's 3,700 laid-off workers certainly would approve.

December 22, 1996|MICHAEL MOORE | Michael Moore is the author of "Downsize This: Random Threats from an Unarmed American" (Crown/Random House, 1996)

Much has been written this past week regarding the resignation/removal of Michael Ovitz from his job as president of Disney. But most of the coverage and commentary seems to be saying the same thing: He failed, he's getting $90 million for failing and this is an outrage.

While expressing shock and horror over the amount of Ovitz's severance, there seems to be a certain glee in watching his undoing, no matter what the guy is getting for his troubles. Hollywood always loves a good backlash, and Ovitz is sure proof that no one is immune from the syndrome of, "They build you up, then they carve you for dinner."

I, however, happen to believe that the Ovitz deal is a good thing: good for the industry and good for the country. I know that this may come as a surprise to some of you who have followed my work, but I honestly think that this is one corporate windfall that has many benefits, not just for Ovitz, but for you and me.

Take a look at all the good that can come out of the mess:

* It sets a wonderful precedent. Ninety million dollars in unemployment compensation? Now this is how you treat laid-off employees! The same week Ovitz lost his job, 3,700 people at Bank of America were also sacked. Can't BofA follow Disney's lead? Disney has always been the one to set a good example for the children. Why not do the same for their downsized parents? I'm sure those who have lost their jobs at GM, AT&T and IBM will be more than glad to accept less than $90 million--hell, $90,000 would do just fine.

* Less money for Disney. This is always good. Let's face it, the Mouse has just too much cheese. Buying up whole networks, trying to build theme parks on sacred battlegrounds, greenlighting films like "Kazaam"--these guys need to be relieved of some of their disposable income. I salute Michael Ovitz for performing this public service.

* Too many mergers as it is. Boeing buys McDonnell-Douglas. Time buys Warner which buys Turner who buys New Line. Michael Eisner buys Ovitz. Eisner disowns Ovitz. Finally, a merger breakup! All of this commingling may be good for the stockholders, but is it good for the rest of us? Look at it this way: Eisner and Ovitz together don't employ as many people as Eisner and Ovitz apart, running two separate companies. More jobs for you and me.

* An inspiration to teachers everywhere. The same night Ovitz learns he'll be getting millions from Disney for, essentially, doing nothing, the Disney Channel broadcasts the "Teacher of the Year Awards." The teacher who won received a golden apple--and probably gets to keep her $27,000-a-year job.

* This is good for all Eastern religions. Now that Ovitz has been blessed with all this manna, he'll be able to contribute more to the collection plate of his favorite Zen-like religions. And they, in turn, will be able to contribute more to the Clinton defense fund.

* . . . and even better for Beijing. Now we'll never see the true story of those unruly, nasty students in Tiananmen Square on the silver screen. How do you say Scorsese in Chinese?

* It gives Jeffrey Katzenberg a good feeling all over. This whole affair begs the question: Can't we all just get along with Eisner? I met the guy at a screening of my film, "Roger & Me." The lights went up, and the first words out of his mouth were, "General Motors is going to have you shot!" The man has a sense of humor. So why did Katzenberg leave him? What's going on here, people?

* Hey, it's Christmas. Why shouldn't Ovitz be rewarded for being good?

* Keeps Treat Williams employed. Williams is one of the best actors in Hollywood, and we don't see enough of him. His portrayal of Ovitz in last year's HBO movie "The Late Shift" was inspired. There surely will be a film made on this current melodrama, so that means we'll get to see more of Williams.

* This is very good for me. I am a client of the Creative Artists Agency, founded by Ovitz. When Ovitz was heading CAA, I was making a movie and a television show at the same time. Since he's left CAA, no feature films, no "TV Nation." Reduced to writing a book. Maybe Ovitz will come to his senses and return to CAA--and I can get back to making millions, just like him!

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