Networking, one of my mother's old phrases, musty slang of yesteryear. Even in her sixties she still did something she called that, though as far as I could see all it meant was having lunch with some other woman.
—Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale (1985)
Michael Eisner, the Walt Disney Company's imperious chairman, hired his long-time friend Michael Ovitz to fill the media giant's presidency in August 1995. That job had remained open for months after Frank Wells's death in a helicopter crash. Ovitz had started his Hollywood career humbly, as a tour guide at Universal Studios, followed by a stint in the William Morris Agency's mailroom. It took off when he co-founded the Creative Artists Agency in 1975, which soon became the entertainment industry's premier talent agency, representing a thousand film personalities including Tom Hanks, Barbra Streisand, and Tom Cruise. Ovitz subsequently became Hollywood's most-powerful and most-feared negotiator, personally brokering such megadeals as the Matsushita-MCA merger and Sony's acquisition of Columbia Pictures. In 1995, he had lured CBS news executive Harold Stringer to head Tele-TV, a new video program joint venture of three regional telephone companies. Tele-TV had hoped that the super-agent's connections would procure production deals with the Hollywood studios. But Ovitz's surprise defection to Disney, a firm allied with a rival group of telecommunication companies, left CAA scrambling to hold onto its business and entertainment clients.
Industry observers assumed that Eisner had hired Ovitz to strengthen Disney's ties to top Hollywood talent, to manage its recent $19 billion takeover of Capital Cities/ABC, and eventually to succeed him as chair: "It