I am finally finished.
That’s right, friends. I finally finished the 700+ page behemoth known as Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency by James Andrew Miller. Whoo, man. It was a lot.
And y’all know that I’m not a slow reader. But it really took some time to get through this exhaustively researched oral history of CAA, one of Hollywood’s biggest agencies. Although I gotta say, while the book does drag at times, overall it is a fascinating look into the rise, seeming fall, and the ultimate comeback of this powerful entertainment industry organization.
Miller interviewed more than 500 people for this tome, ranging from CAA co-founders such as Mike Ovitz and Ron Meyer to superstars such as LeBron James and Sylvester Stallone as well as various agents, lawyers, managers, and business competitors.
Powerhouse essentially charts the agency’s beginnings, when its five founders broke away from the William Morris Agency to start their own thing. It then goes into the tumultuous period nearly 20 years later, when all of the original founders had departed, and then tells of how the so-called Young Turks (including such notable names as Bryan Lourd, Kevin Huvane, and Richard Lovett) took the reins and created today’s CAA, a massive conglomerate with stakes not just in film and television, but in sports, investment banking, marketing and advertising, and digital media as well.
Many of the stories have a tragic Shakespearean quality about them — the feud between Ovitz and Meyer is pretty notable as is the notion that Ovitz, with an ambitious plan to go into the telecom market in the early ’90s, was simply too far ahead of his time.
The book does get bogged down by minutiae at times, and the entire tale of CAA selling a majority stake to private-equity firm TPG Capital sometimes borders on being dull. But it is a necessary component to the otherwise intriguing story of CAA came to be.
The interesting thing, however, is that CAA’s tale is far from over. Thanks to the influx of capital from TPG, the company has made some serious investments, particularly in sports, and its overall focus on helping its clients build empires around their brands point to a bigger future for the agency. Miller isn’t prescient enough to tell us what that ending will be, but in all honesty, it looks to me that CAA’s fate is one that will be filled with nothing but good fortune.
Who knows — maybe one day I’ll be a CAA client, telling my story in a second-edition printing. Ha!