Fortune

HOLLYWOOD’S NEW ODD COUPLE

Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman have big plans for short videos. Quibi, their yet-to-launch service, aims to dominate the market in high-quality hot takes for mobile phones. They’ve raised a billion dollars and paid big bucks to attract top talent. Now all they need are customers.

IT’S DINNERTIME midweek at the celebrity-heavy Los Angeles restaurant Craig’s, and Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman are holding court in a highly visible corner booth. If Hollywood were a high school cafeteria, theirs would be the cool kids’ table. Other diners smile and nod in their direction. The record executive Tommy Mottola stops by. The restaurant’s owner, Craig Susser, leans in to shake hands. “I haven’t heard much about you lately,” says Susser. “Are you doing anything?” All laugh uproariously. The joke’s on whoever thought gobs of money and a pair of expired executive titles would force these two into retirement.

At first glance, Whitman and Katzenberg seem a bit like the oil and vinegar that dress the $16 kale salad at this joint. She made her name in left-brain Silicon Valley, running eBay and then Hewlett-Packard. He looms large over right-brain Hollywood as the former chairman of Walt Disney Studios and longtime CEO of DreamWorks Animation. She ran for governor of California as a Republican. He’s raised big bucks for Democrats. She wears paisley scarves; he prefers Stan Smiths. It’s kind of hard to imagine them enjoying a meal together, let alone joining forces to create Quibi, a short-form video platform—its name is short for “quick bites”—that has raised a billion dollars from the likes of Disney, Fox, Time Warner, and NBCUniversal, all before writing a line of code or releasing a snippet of video.

Yet this odd couple finish each other’s sentences like friends who have known each other for decades, which, in fact, they have. They met in 1989 at Disney, where Whitman worked in the entertainment giant’s famed strategic-planning group while Katzenberg was busy reviving Disney’s motion picture arm. Katzenberg claims Whitman was the only business type he enjoyed talking to back then. Years later, when she was CEO of eBay, he asked her to join the board of DreamWorks Animation. Whitman stayed for five years before stepping down for her 2010 gubernatorial campaign. (Katzenberg’s reaction upon learning Whitman would run as a Republican: “Are you fucking kidding me?”) She was trounced by Democrat Jerry Brown.

So when HP announced in late 2017 that Whitman would be leaving her latest

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