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Hollywood Managers Take Breakout Roles

Six venture out to form their own firm as the talent business burgeons

November 14, 2002|Claudia Eller and James Bates | Times Staff Writers

The newest management firm in Hollywood has no name. But it has snagged some of the biggest names in entertainment.

Continuing a long tradition of entrepreneurial spinoffs by representatives of actors, directors and writers, a collection of six talent managers announced Wednesday that they had come together to create their own business.

Among their top-tier clients: Reese Witherspoon, Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Julianne Moore, Kiefer Sutherland, Mariah Carey and "Charlie's Angels" director McG.

It's still unclear exactly which of these stars plan to join their managers at the new company. But most of them are expected to.

So far, the venture's founders have been unable to agree on what to call their new firm. And whether they can learn to work collaboratively on even more complex issues remains to be seen.

"This is a group of successful people banding together to build a company," said manager Brian Medavoy, a partner at Immortal Entertainment. "Whether or not they can merge those cultures into one" is something that "no one will know until they spend time together."

The founders of the new firm -- none of whom agreed to be interviewed -- are Suzan Bymel, Guymon Casady, Eric Kranzler, Evelyn O'Neill, Daniel Rappaport and David Seltzer.

Defections to form new companies aren't unusual, but the fallout when clients and executives depart can be financially and emotionally wrenching.

Industry Entertainment has been hit hard twice. Four years ago, two top managers left and took with them such stars as Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz. Now, three more managers are taking "Spider-Man" stars Maguire and Dunst.

"They have been very candid about their desire to do their own thing. I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't disappointed, but I understand the entrepreneurial spirit," said Industry partner Keith Addis, whose firm still represents Angelina Jolie, Ted Danson and Billy Bob Thornton.

Hollywood's talent agencies and management companies for years have spawned newer ones as agents and managers get restless and venture out on their own. The biggest talent group, Creative Artists Agency, was founded when Michael Ovitz and some colleagues split from the William Morris Agency in 1975. Endeavor Agency was formed when a group of agents left International Creative Management in 1995.

The new management company is being created at a time when managers have proliferated in Hollywood, carving out a powerful position that sometimes puts them at odds with the talent agencies that have long dominated the business.

Unlike regulated agents, managers enjoy a more freewheeling status. They orchestrate career moves and produce films and television shows in which their clients star.

They are prohibited by law from procuring work for clients, which is supposed to be the exclusive job of talent agents. But talent agencies have long alleged that many managers blur that line, sometimes acting as de facto agents.

The business is risky. The ambitious plans of now-defunct Artists Management Group, founded by former agent Ovitz in 1998, failed to materialize. Blending managers from different backgrounds also can prove tough. What's more, the six face competition from a host of powerful established managers, including Industry Entertainment, Brillstein-Grey, Mosaic Media and 3 Arts Entertainment.

The largest, Brillstein-Grey, boasts nearly 200 clients, such as Brad Pitt, Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston and former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

Although Industry Entertainment knew that three managers were on their way out, partners at 3 Arts were caught off guard by Rappaport's departure.

"While everybody is entitled to go off and do what they want, we're disappointed," said partner Michael Rotenberg. "We spent many years nurturing" Rappaport.

In a statement, Rappaport said he was indebted to 3 Arts. Casady, Kranzler and Seltzer issued a similar statement saying they are grateful to Industry. Bymel and O'Neill were partners at Talent Entertainment Group, representing such clients as Witherspoon and Sutherland.

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Management A-teams

Here is a look at some of Hollywood's biggest talent management firms, the year founded and a few big-name clients:

* Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, 1991

Brad Pitt, Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox Arquette, Martin Short, Lorne Michaels and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani

* The Firm, 1997

Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, Martin Scorsese, Samuel L. Jackson, Martin Lawrence, Vin Diesel, Benicio Del Toro, Ice Cube, Korn and Limp Bizkit

* 3 Arts Entertainment, 1991

Chris Rock, Cuba Gooding Jr., Keanu Reeves, Matthew Broderick, Debra Messing, Frankie Muniz, Bernie Mac, Ethan Hawke and Oliver Platt

* Mosaic Media Group, 1999

Jim Carrey, Alanis Morissette, Ellen DeGeneres, Sean Hayes, Damon Wayans, the Wallflowers, Johnny Rzeznik and Green Day

* Industry Entertainment, 1988

(formerly Addis Wechsler)

Angelina Jolie, Billy Bob Thornton, Ted Danson, Callie Khouri, Tommy Schlamme, Jeff Goldblum and Stephen Hopkins

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Source: Times research

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