Living Large With Leo and Bradley: How Ryan Kavanaugh Enjoyed the Perks of Relativity's Rise
Helicoptering from Malibu to Santa Monica, serenaded by Steven Tyler at his Nobu Malibu-set wedding, leasing luxury cars to top execs — the mogul boasted what some employees complain is a lifestyle too lavish.
This story first appeared in the Aug. 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
In 2012, as Carly Rae Jepsen's catchy tune "Call Me Maybe" was all the rage, the senior staff at Relativity Media decided they would create a gag video for their fun-loving boss Ryan Kavanaugh. So top lieutenants Tucker Tooley and Happy Walters rode Segways through the company's hallways surrounded by dancing girls, Relativity TV chief Tom Forman sang along as he polished his Emmys, and marketing head Terry Curtin vamped in a suggestive crawl across a conference-room table.
Three years later, the mood at Relativity's offices on Beverly Boulevard in Beverly Hills — Kavanaugh, a helicopter enthusiast, also works out of a separate suite at the Santa Monica Airport — is a lot more subdued, if not downright grim. The once high-flying company was forced to lay off 75 employees July 29, the day before it filed for Chapter 11 protection, and its staff was asked to take 20 percent pay cuts. The company faces an uncertain future as the bankruptcy process and a probable auction of assets plays out.
For a company gag video, Tooley (in black) and Walters (in white) performed "Call Me Maybe" on Segways as girls danced in Kavanaugh's office.
Today, what once looked like examples of Kavanaugh's largesse -- the four assistants, the luxury cars leased for top execs, the lavish parties at his Malibu estates, one of which he sold in July for $8.75 million -- now rankle some of the surviving employees, who've noticed that the Mercedes SLS provided to co-president of production Robbie Brenner, who joined Relativity after producing Dallas Buyers Club, now mostly sits unused in its parking spot (the mother of two young kids has little use for a sports car). Kavanaugh should have been minding the store, say some employees, instead of palling around in Cannes with Leonardo DiCaprio and Bradley Cooper or placing a $400,000 bid for an African safari at a May 2014 fundraiser benefiting the Elephant Crisis Fund. A lawsuit filed against Kavanaugh by RKA Film Financing claims he dipped into film distribution funds for personal expenses, a charge Kavanaugh vehemently denies.
From left: Harvey Weinstein, Laurie Feltheimer, wife of Lionsgate’s Jon Feltheimer, and Kavanaugh at Cannes in 2008.
Kavanaugh certainly knows how to throw a party. Last summer, he held a bash to welcome a new neighbor, billionaire Gabriel Brener, to his Point Dume hood; attendees included Mel Gibson, Rosanna Arquette and DiCaprio (bouncing on an in-ground trampoline). Crystal the Monkey, the capuchin known for her scene-stealing work in The Hangover: Part II, climbed onto Kavanaugh's shoulders and posed for photos. And in March, he celebrated his wedding to his second wife, model Jessica Roffey, with a reception at Nobu Malibu, where Steven Tyler performed the Aerosmith hit "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" for the newlyweds' first dance, as guests — among them Ryan Seacrest, Jerry Bruckheimer, Katie Holmes, Ron Burkle, Zoe Saldana, Edward Norton and Josh Hartnett — most dressed in the requested black, applauded.
A Kavanaugh home on Malibu’s La Costa beach, which he sold in July.
Kavanaugh and Roffey at their March 13 beachside wedding in Malibu.
Some of Kavanaugh's indulgences, like his penchant for crisscrossing Los Angeles by helicopter, haven't been as well received by his neighbors and local police. (Nor have his two arrests on D.U.I. charges.) He also uses helicopters when he's in Hawaii, where he wants to build a production facility. A representative for Kavanaugh says the copters belong to an aviation company owned by the family investment firm run by Kavanaugh and his brother, Matthew, and that no Relativity money is used to buy or operate them. In 2013, when he landed on a Los Angeles Sheriff's Department helipad, it triggered a criminal probe, later dropped, into whether he had used the helipad without permission. The following year, Kavanaugh thrust himself into the L.A. County Sheriff's race by hosting a fundraiser (with DiCaprio and Burkle) in support of the ultimately unsuccessful James Hellmold.
Few believe Kavanaugh's lifestyle will change if he is ousted from the company he started, especially considering he has other investments that provide a separate money stream.