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Morris Faces Lawsuit by 2 Ex-Agents

Steven Glick and Gregory Lipstone claim they were defrauded when they quit last year, an allegation the firm says is without merit.

April 27, 2006|Claire Hoffman | Times Staff Writer

Two TV agents sued the William Morris Agency on Wednesday, alleging that their former employer shortchanged them to the tune of millions of dollars when a power struggle left them out of favor.

In a Los Angeles County Superior Court suit, Steven H. Glick and Gregory Lipstone said the talent agency misrepresented its profit to them when they resigned in 2005. As a result, the two alleged, they were defrauded because their stock was repurchased on the cheap.

William Morris said in a statement that the company had not been served with the complaint, but called the allegation "completely without merit. We intend to defend ourselves vigorously and we fully expect to prevail."

The complaint is a rare glimpse into one of Hollywood's largest talent agencies, which prefers to showcase such clients as Russell Crowe and Scarlett Johansson than to air its business mechanics in public.

Now both TV agents at rival International Creative Management, Glick and Lipstone began working at Beverly Hills-based William Morris in the early 1980s and climbed their way up the ranks from the agency's famed mailroom. Glick became a senior vice president at the agency by age 32, and Lipstone served for a time as the head of the network TV department.

Glick's current clients include former "Everybody Loves Raymond" star Doris Roberts and actor Rob Morrow of "Numb3rs." Lipstone's clients include such companies as BBC Worldwide Productions and Granada America.

The complaint said they left William Morris after a tumultuous period inside the agency's headquarters at the end of 2004. Power was consolidated then under Jim Wiatt, now chief executive, and President David Wirtschafter, both of whom came to William Morris from International Creative Management.

That struggle between the "old guard" and the new executives precipitated the departure of three longtime agents: TV chief Sam Haskell, music agent Richard Rosenberg and Chief Operating Officer Steve Kram.

Glick and Lipstone allege that those defections left them out of favor. When they chose to resign, they said, the agency reneged on long-standing assurances that it would "take care of their own" through stock ownership and compensation. But, based on summary accounting records, the two agents alleged that management intentionally underreported profits, bilking them out of millions of dollars.

Nancy L. Fineman, who represents Glick and Lipstone, said it had been difficult for the two agents to come forward.

"It's a tough decision to make because of the length of time and the loyalty they felt for William Morris," she said.

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