Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 20 September 2020

Ghosn and former Disney president team up to clinch TV and film deals​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

A deal with a studio could be a significant financial boon for Carlos Ghosn following his expensive escape from Japan

Mr Ghosn's spokesperson said Michael Ovitz would assist with projects and evaluate proposals. Reuters
Mr Ghosn's spokesperson said Michael Ovitz would assist with projects and evaluate proposals. Reuters

Hollywood producers eager to dramatise the life of Carlos Ghosn, the former Nissan chairman who staged a cinematic escape from Japan in December, are likely to get a simple response: call my agent.

Not just any agent. Mr Ghosn is working with Michael Ovitz, the founder of Creative Artists Agency and former president of Walt Disney Company, to explore film and TV projects. A spokeswoman for Mr Ghosn said Mr Ovitz would assist with projects and evaluating proposals he has received, cautioning that any discussions are still preliminary.

A deal with a studio could be a significant financial boon to Mr Ghosn, who forfeited $14 million (Dh51.42m) in bail money when he fled Japan at the end of December, a caper that one security expert estimated could have cost him another $15m.

Mr Ghosn’s story — which involves allegations of a high-level corporate coup and government collusion, followed by a dramatic extraction masterminded by a former Green Beret — has the makings of a compelling film or mini-series at a time when companies from Netflix to Amazon.com are hungry for fresh content.

Few people in Hollywood are more familiar with such negotiations than Mr Ovitz, who has been one of the entertainment industry’s most prominent dealmakers since the 1980s. At CAA he pioneered the practice of “packaging” film projects, putting together stars, screenwriters and directors and shopping them to studios as a team.

Mr Ovitz didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment outside of regular US business hours.

In 1995 Mr Ovitz crossed to the other side, joining Disney as the second-in-command to then-chairman Michael Eisner — a relationship that soon turned sour, leading Mr Ovitz to depart the company after a little more than a year. He received $140m in severance payments, prompting a group of investors to unsuccessfully sue Disney’s board, claiming it had wasted money hiring him.

It’s probably safe to say that Mr Ovitz, who over the years worked with A-listers including Steven Spielberg and Meryl Streep, has never had a client with Mr Ghosn’s background.

The Brazilian-French-Lebanese auto executive, who spent much of late 2018 and early 2019 in solitary confinement in Tokyo, was facing four criminal charges in Japan, which together could have put him in prison for more than a decade. Two related claims that he understated his compensation in official filings, while two more indictments, for “breach of trust,” alleged that he misused Nissan’s resources for his own benefit.

Mr Ghosn was a household name in Japan even before his arrest, after turning around Nissan almost two decades ago. He became something of a corporate celebrity in the country, spawning numerous business books even a manga comic about his management style and time at the car maker.

The auto executive, who made his way to Lebanon via private jet, has denied wrongdoing, arguing the charges were part of a conspiracy by Nissan executives and Japanese government officials to halt his plans to integrate the company more closely with its top shareholder, Renault.

Updated: February 10, 2020 03:19 PM

Editor's Picks
Sign up to our daily email
Most Popular