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He Reels In the Big Deals

Entertainment attorney Skip Brittenham has clients on all sides of the table. His many fans see assets, not entanglements.

September 15, 2005|Claudia Eller | Times Staff Writer

Many people in Hollywood can't be bothered to talk about much beyond the weekend box-office results and which studio head will be fired next. Reluctant to ever truly unplug from the industry, top executives often vacation together in the same spots. Not Brittenham.

He doesn't hesitate to put a multimillion-dollar deal on hold while he travels to a river halfway around the world. Sometimes, these fishing trips are in locations so remote that he is unreachable for days at a time. He knows the deal will still be there when he returns.

During the Weinsteins' settlement talks with Disney, for example, one strategy meeting grew particularly tense, as the brothers' representatives realized that the deal was threatening to fall apart.

Bertram Fields, another attorney in the room, remembers that at one point someone turned to Brittenham, demanding to know what he planned to do to salvage the situation. Brittenham simply smiled. He knew the players. He'd understood the pressures, and how close tempers were to boiling over. It was time to pause, not act.

"I'm going fishing," he said. And he did.



The dealmaker

Name: Harry "Skip" Brittenham

Career Highlights: First job: Kaplan, Livingston, Goodwin, Berkowitz & Selvin, 1970-1978.

First client, screenwriter-director Larry Cohen, 1972.

First actor client, Henry Winkler, 1974.

Launched boutique entertainment law firm with Kenneth Ziffren and David Gullen, 1978.

Among his clients: Actors -- Tom Hanks, Harrison Ford, Eddie Murphy, Tim Allen, Ice Cube, Bruce Willis and Ted Danson. Directors -- Ridley and Tony Scott. Corporations -- Pixar Animation Studios, DreamWorks SKG. Executives -- Miramax Films co-founders Harvey and Bob Weinstein, 20th Century Fox co-Chairmen Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman, New Line Cinema co-Chairmen Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, Revolution Studios founder Joe Roth and Interscope founder Ted Field.

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