Burkle v. Ovitz Dismissed

Billionaire investor Ronald Burkle thought he had a business relationship with former Walt Disney Co. president and CAA co-founder Michael Ovitz, but it turns out they were just friends – at least according to a recent court decision.

Burkle, the founder of private equity firm Yucaipa Cos., sued Ovitz in February 2005, claiming the two men had a verbal agreement to combine "their skill, money and knowledge" on investments.

Instead, Superior Court Judge Soussan Bruguera dismissed the case March 27th, finding the terms of the men’s oral agreements were too vague to enforce. Instead, the relationship was characterized as more of a friendship.

"Clearly, this friendship soured," Bruguera said.

Burkle attorney Russell Sauer said his client will appeal.

The billionaire claimed the agreements would allow each man to acquire 50 percent of any Internet-related or online technology projects that Ovitz or Burkle considered. Each would also have a chance to acquire 10 percent of any other business ventures being contemplated.

Burkle’s lawsuit claims Ovitz never gave the billionaire a chance to invest in Ovitz’s management company, Artists Management Group – a company that was later acquired by Jeff Kwatinetz and The Firm. The suit also claims Ovitz deprived Burkle of an opportunity to invest in Google.

"[Bruguera’s] ruling just confirmed what we’ve known for several years: the claims are groundless and always were," Ovitz attorney James Ellis said.