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It's late afternoon in the middle of the week and Ryan Kavanaugh leans back in a glass-walled Beverly Hills office, dressed in his usual uniform of jeans, white shirt, white socks and blue sneakers, unfazed about the "s*** [people] talk about me."

His casual clothing has come to define him as much as Armani suits once defined CAA. Jesse Cohn, his mentor at Elliott Management (Relativity's primary Wall Street backer), recently presented him with a puppet replica of Albert Einstein sitting in a director's chair, wearing the same outfit. Cohn also wrote a check for $50,000 to one of Kavanaugh's favorite charities, Art of Elysium.

At 35, this former hedge-fund operator has made and lost far more than that $50,000. Now a multimillionaire and unexpected power broker, he has become one of the primary financiers of Hollywood feature films and is launching his own distribution company. It is for his boldness in approaching the movie business that The Hollywood Reporter this year has named him the recipient of its Leadership Award.

He's an unlikely leader, by his own admission -- not remotely like the man he idolizes, Einstein, whose theories gave rise to his company's name, Relativity Media.

"Einstein was the revolutionary of his time," Kavanaugh says. "It's not just that he created different formulas in physics; he did it against everybody telling him it was impossible -- which is kind of how we feel about [show] business. Everybody is telling us -- particularly when I started -- 'You'll never be able to do this. You're crazy.' "

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