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New Paramount Chief Sells Brillstein-Grey to Executives

August 04, 2005|Claudia Eller | Times Staff Writer

Five months after becoming head of Paramount Pictures, Brad Grey relinquished sole ownership of his former talent management and television production business to longtime executives Cynthia Pett-Dante and Jon Liebman.

But Grey isn't walking away empty-handed.

In unwinding his ownership in Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, Grey retains a significant ownership in HBO's "The Sopranos" and a passive financial interest in other shows originated during his tenure. They include ABC's "According to Jim" and "Jake in Progress" and HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher."

Grey also will continue collecting money from the syndicated series "Just Shoot Me" and "NewsRadio."

However, he will not share in any new Brillstein-Grey shows produced since his departure March 1, among them Comedy Central's "The Showbiz Show With David Spade" and "Mind of Mencia."

Nor will he have a stake in shows produced under the firm's new deal with Walt Disney Co.'s Touchstone Television.

Grey also relinquished his claim to all of the company's receivables, or current and future commissions earned by the firm's clients, who include Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, Adam Sandler and former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

In recent years, annual billings of the privately held firm have averaged $25 million to $35 million, according to three people who declined to be identified because of confidentiality clauses.

If receivables exceed a certain high threshold, Grey would get an unspecified percentage of earnings from the new owners, said one source familiar with the details. But Grey is not due a definitive sum, and may never see a penny.

One source said Grey also gave the new owners an additional $2 million to help maintain their current earnings while covering overhead.

Two sources estimated that the fixed annual overhead at the firm, which has a staff of about 70, is $12 million. The new owners also assumed the lease at the firm's newly renovated Beverly Hills offices.

Grey became sole owner in 1996 when he bought out founder and partner Bernie Brillstein, who had given him a job in 1985.

In a phone interview, Grey declined to discuss financial terms but did say, "I'm so proud of what we've built over the years and have no doubt that the company will enjoy even greater success in the future."

Liebman, who negotiated the transition and is now CEO, called the arrangement "a fair and amicable deal."

Pett-Dante and Liebman signed new five-year contracts and are the only equity partners.

Pett-Dante, 43, is a 14-year veteran of the firm and represents Pitt.

During his seven years at the company, Liebman, 46, has largely handled business matters and represents Giuliani.

Grey's longtime lieutenant Marc Gurvitz had been expected to have an equity stake.

Gurvitz declined to be interviewed on why he does not, but through a company representative he said: "For numerous personal reasons the timing for me to take on the role of owner and partner [was] just not right."

The representative did not specify the reasons. Court records show that Gurvitz is going through a divorce.

A 19-year veteran, Gurvitz is signing a new multiyear contract and will potentially share in profit, along with Brillstein, 30-year veteran Sandy Wernick and newly hired manager Aleen Keshishian.

Liebman said he and Pett-Dante planned to keep the Brillstein-Grey moniker for now.

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