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COMPANY TOWN | The Biz

ICM Executive Is a Top Talent Among Agents

November 24, 1998|CLAUDIA ELLER and SALLIE HOFMEISTER

When Nancy Josephson first gave up her entertainment-law career to join International Creative Management's New York office as a television agent, her colleagues would speak in hushed tones when they saw her in the halls.

"Oh, she's the daughter," they'd whisper. Or, if she happened to pass by an office and hear an agent cursing at someone, the door would suddenly shut as if she might report it to her father, Marvin Josephson, the owner of the agency.

Twelve years later, nobody in Hollywood or at ICM, where she has spent her entire agenting career, rising to become head of its worldwide TV division in Los Angeles, would accuse Josephson of not having made it on her own.

Among other achievements, Josephson packaged and sold "Friends," the hit sitcom by Warner Bros. that began airing on NBC in 1994 and is expected to generate $50 million or more for ICM.

With her promotion late last month to a co-presidency, Josephson becomes a key decision-maker at the agency her father founded more than two decades ago and of which he is still a minority shareholder and chairman of its holding company. (Veteran talent agent Ed Limato, 53, also was named co-president as part of the management realignment at the firm last month.)

"This was not a legacy hire," says ICM Chairman Jeffrey Berg, who is now the agency's largest shareholder. "Nancy has earned everything. She's a total winner both as an agent and a leader."

Josephson is now the highest-ranking woman at any of the three major talent agencies, which include Creative Artists Agency and William Morris Agency. She was also recently named president of the Hollywood Radio and Television Society--the first female for that post in its 51-year history.

Josephson, 41, built ICM's TV group with such successful clients as Marta Kauffman, David Crane and Kevin Bright, creators and executive producers of NBC's "Friends," "Veronica's Closet" and "Jesse"; Darren Star, creator and executive producer of HBO's "Sex and the City"; and Christopher Keyser, co-creator and an executive producer of Fox's "Party of Five."

A Penchant for Getting It Done

Josephson won't discuss her billings at ICM, but she describes "Friends" as "certainly one of the biggest transactions in our agency's history."

CBS television chief Leslie Moonves, who made the original "Friends" deal when he was head of Warner Bros. TV, described Josephson as "an extremely active participant--very hands-on. She was involved in the development of 'Friends' and putting it on the schedule, and she helps strategize as a studio executive would. She's someone who understands the game."

Josephson says that "making things happen" for people is what drew her to agenting. During her three-year stint as a lawyer, Josephson worked mostly with TV production outfits, writing net-profit definitions and chasing down rights deals.

"I was really operating more as an agent than a lawyer," she says. "The fun part for me wasn't drafting contracts; it was putting people together and getting things done."

When she joined ICM in 1986, she sold dramatic rights to books but quickly began signing TV talent, which earned her a promotion to head of the TV department in New York in 1987. After transferring to ICM's L.A. office, she was named head of the TV literary department in 1991 and four years later was put in charge of the TV department worldwide.

Josephson, a single mother living in Santa Monica Canyon with her two children, a daughter, 4, and a son, 9, is compulsively organized--she says she has to be to juggle the demands of home and office. During lunch, she will fish a notebook from her purse to make a list. "It's her magic paper," says Kauffman. "She is so efficient, she had her second child in four hours."

A candle burns on the desk of Josephson's English-country-style office, and behind her hangs a Thanksgiving memento written by her then 5-year-old son: "I'm thakful for my mom beccaase she is always organiysd."

When she and her husband split up a year ago, Josephson says, "I actually arranged my custody schedule to accommodate" client tapings on Tuesday and Friday evenings. Josephson contends she's "a better mom because I love my job."

"Nancy has devoted herself to be successful both as a parent and an agent," says producer Marc Platt, who has been close to Josephson since the two shared a law office in New York.

To say Josephson is driven and tenacious is an understatement. She just closed a deal with CBS after pressing the network for six years to bring back her client David Frankel's anthology series "Grapevine," which was canceled after six shows despite critical acclaim.

"She was a tireless campaigner for this project and for her client," says Moonves, who ordered a new pilot to be written and directed by Frankel. "She knew I was a fan of the show, and she just kept punching for it."

Josephson credits her father for her work ethic.

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