During a Friday morning final status conference before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis, lawyers for Ovitz and Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. did not divulge the terms of the case resolution, which comes nearly four years after the case was filed in March 2018.
Ovitz is a former talent agent who co-founded Creative Artists Agency in 1975 and was its chairman until 1995. Ovitz was president of The Walt Disney Co. from October 1995 to January 1997.
Journalist Anita Busch sued Ovitz in May 2004, alleging he hired Pellicano to intimidate her following a series of stories that Ovitz deemed negative.
Ovitz acknowledged employing Pellicano to investigate Busch, but denied paying the investigator to menace her in 2002 and 2003, which resulted in her phone being tapped and someone putting a dead fish, a rose and a note that said “Stop” on her shattered car windshield.
Ovitz maintained that his two primary insurers paid their part of his compensation after the July 2018 settlement with Busch, but that Fireman’s Fund had refused to pay its $7.75 million share.
Fireman’s Fund attorney Jodi Swick told the judge during an October hearing on a defense motion to dismiss the case that intentional conduct was not covered by Ovitz’s policy. The judge did strike Ovitz’s claim for punitive damages.
In his court papers, Ovitz attorney Carl Alan Roth said Busch’s suit asserted claims against his client based on the misconduct of Pellicano, who Ovitz allegedly negligently hired.
“The negligence claim against Ovitz was serious and could have resulted in a judgment of more than $30 million,” Roth stated in his court papers.
“So, after weighing the considerable risks of such a judgment, Mr. Ovitz settled the case. When doing so, he took solace in his reasonable expectation of coverage from Fireman’s under the policy for injuries caused by his unintentional acts.”
In 2002, Ovitz tried to sell his company, Artists Management Group LLC, but his effort was stymied by negative news and rumors regarding AMG, according to Roth’s court papers.
Aware of Pellicano’s reputation at the time as a respected and widely used conduit of information between and among Hollywood power brokers, Ovitz hired him to gather information on a group of relevant players, including reporters Ovitz suspected were being used to put out negative stories about him and his company, according to Roth’s court papers.
Ovitz never anticipated or instructed Pellicano to intimidate, threaten or cause bodily harm to Busch or stop her from publishing a story, Roth stated.
“Mr. Ovitz simply wanted information,” Roth stated in his court papers. “As the world has now come to know, Mr. Pellicano is a criminal. And like the rest of the world, Mr. Ovitz was shocked after learning via press accounts what happened to Ms. Busch.”