Ovitz does Silicon Valley

  @FortuneMagazine October 10, 2013: 7:58 AM ET
OVZ28 michael ovitz

Peter Szulczewski is a 31-year-old San Francisco entrepreneur with a promising startup on his hands. It's a mobile app called Wish, with the catch phrase "Shopping made fun," that connects the personalized "wishlists" of acquisitive consumers with participating retailers. You want a green polka-dot dress? Wish links you to shopkeepers with matching products. With 15 million registered users, Wish is growing by 50,000 a day.

When Szulczewski (pronounced SHOOL-ches-kee) launched the company in 2011, though, it had an identity problem. The company had an uninspired name, ContextLogic, and its beta website was the forgettable wishwall.me. Wish.com wasn't available.

Then, last year, Szulczewski was introduced to an unusual adviser: Michael Ovitz, the 66-year-old erstwhile L.A. ├╝ber-agent. Once known as the most powerful man in Hollywood, Ovitz ruled the town with a gap-toothed smile that belied a taste for blood. But after a series of apparent betrayals and competitive overreaches, he fell from the throne.

Now, in his latest incarnation, the enigmatic Ovitz is trolling about Silicon Valley, making new business buddies and millions of investment bets too. He and Szulczewski hit it off immediately, even if Ovitz -- in his cashmere sweaters and Armani blazers -- didn't quite grasp the indigenous dress code. Compared with his glamorous deals for Tom Cruise and Madonna, Ovitz's advice for Szulczewski was remarkably small-bore. Ovitz saw immediately that the domain name was critical. "I can help with that!" he told Szulczewski, and, with his big swinging Rolodex, within weeks tracked down the owner of wish.com. It was a French subsidiary of Barry Diller's IAC. Szulczewski handled the actual negotiation -- he won't disclose the price -- but Ovitz war-gamed tactics with him beforehand. Szulczewski was impressed. "Michael's here a lot," he says. "We've learned to use him with laser precision."

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