The Would-Be King of Tinseltown
The meteoric rise and possible fall of Relativity's Ryan Kavanaugh.
Several people told me that Joe and Kavanaugh sharply disagreed with each other about the management of Relativity when they worked together at the company. Joe left after less than a year but he had only nice things to say about Kavanaugh. "He's a very hard-charging entrepreneurial guy … he's one of the few people to bring a truly analytical perspective to the movie business."
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Relativity has several possible hits on its upcoming slate, including Immortals, a 3D epic set in ancient Greece, due for release at the end of the year. But Kavanaugh needs to conclude the JPMorgan-led deal if he is to keep developing projects and expanding into new areas.
Elliott Associates and Relativity declined to comment on talks with JPMorgan and other investors. However, the guest list at Kavanaugh's wedding this month may offer a clue to the progress of negotiations. Alongside the Hollywood stars at the celebration on Capri were two senior JPMorgan executives: Greg O'Hara, the head of JPMorgan's Special Investments Group, and Ina Drew, the bank's chief investment officer. She is one of the most senior executives at the bank, reporting directly to Jamie Dimon, its chief executive.
The presence of two of JPMorgan's executives in Italy is an indication of the close ties that have developed between Kavanaugh and the bank. Their attendance also has broader implications for Hollywood which, since 2008, has not had the best relationship with Wall Street. After the financial crash most banks and other lenders opted to give the film business a wide berth, with several banks closing their film finance units. But after not being on speaking terms for a few years Wall Street and Hollywood seem to be interested in each other again, judging by the behaviour of JPMorgan.
It is unclear if the deal will go through, and the rest of Hollywood is watching closely, keen to see if renewed Wall Street interest in owning entertainment companies is real or, like so much else in Hollywood, a carefully crafted mirage. But Kavanaugh has worked in the movie business long enough now to know that a good film has to have a compelling third act. If he succeeds in closing the deal he could not have scripted a better finale.
Matthew Garrahan is the FT's Los Angeles correspondent.
Photo of Ryan Kavanaugh of Relativity Media by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images.