One-time Disney president and superagent Michael Ovitz testified Wednesday that he paid $75,000 to a now-indicted private eye to investigate who was leaking information to journalists about his company's finances.
Testifying for an hour, Ovitz said he also had discussions with defendant Anthony Pellicano about getting embarrassing information about two reporters. The journalists' stories in 2002 alleged financial problems at Ovitz's Artists Management Group while the company was in talks to be acquired.
Attorney Chad Hummel, who represents co-defendant Mark Arneson, asked Ovitz during cross-examination what information he had sought from Pellicano about the leaks.
"Whatever I could get from him," Ovitz said. "I wanted to know when I was going to be ambushed, and when the next shoe would drop."
Ovitz said Pellicano gave him the code name "Gaspar" to identify himself when he called the detective.
Pellicano and four other co-defendants have pleaded not guilty to using wiretaps and other tactics to dig up dirt to help clients in legal and other disputes.
Ovitz said he was not aware that Pellicano was doing anything illegal on his behalf.
"I assume whatever he did, he did legally. I would never instruct him to do anything illegal," Ovitz said.
Ovitz was asked if he had Pellicano threaten reporter Anita Busch, who was then writing articles for The New York Times.
"Absolutely no," Ovitz answered.
After the articles were printed in 2002, a dead fish with a rose in its mouth was found on Busch's car along with a sign reading "stop."