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Hollywood Agency ICM Acquires Small Rival

July 28, 2006|Claire Hoffman | Times Staff Writer

One of Hollywood's largest deal makers cut a deal Thursday to make itself even bigger.

International Creative Management said it bought Broder Webb Chervin Silbermann Agency, a boutique shop known for putting together such hit TV shows as ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," NBC's "My Name Is Earl" and the CBS comedy "Two and a Half Men."

Although neither agency would disclose terms of the transaction, which took five months to forge, people familiar with the details said it was valued at about $70 million, with ICM paying cash for the agency's assets. For his part, ICM Chairman Jeffrey Berg, 59, said only that the investment was hefty.

"It's among the most significant deals ever made in the business," he said. "I think it's a page turner for the agency business."

The acquisition of the 27-agent shop, known as BWCS, is the first major move by ICM after a $100-million recapitalization in November involving a little-known Connecticut investor. At the time, Berg made clear his plans to use a portion of that money to acquire another talent agency to strengthen ICM's position among its competitors.

The move by the two agencies reflects a larger shift in the entertainment industry, as the number of buyers of films and TV shows has shrunk significantly. Talent agents have been predicting an industry consolidation, with top players ICM, Creative Artists Agency, William Morris Agency, Endeavor and United Talent Agency seeking dance partners.

"In order to compete, we need to have size and global reach," said Robert Broder, one of BWCS's founders. "As we move into this new era of the digital age, our clients deserve the best representation they can have. It was a moment in time that we couldn't pass up."

Under the deal, ICM reorganized its executive ranks, naming Chris Silbermann, 38, previously BWCS' managing partner, as co-president alongside veteran agent Ed Limato.

One fallout is the departure of veteran agent Nancy Josephson, who served as ICM co-president and is one of Hollywood's top-ranking female agents. The daughter of founder Marvin Josephson, she was responsible for some of ICM's most lucrative TV packages, including "Friends" and "Sex and the City."

The agency said Josephson chose to leave as part of the reorganization.

ICM is one of the largest talent agencies in the world, with more than 150 agents in Beverly Hills, New York and London, and has divisions handling publishing, motion pictures, TV, music, new media and commercials. Its client roster includes such top actors and filmmakers as Mel Gibson, Denzel Washington, Woody Allen, Samuel L. Jackson and Jodie Foster.

BWCS is a strong competitor in TV, as well as in representing "below the line" workers such as costumers, script supervisors and camera operators. Some of its successful TV packages in the past include "Cheers," "Frasier," "Baywatch" and "The X-Files." It also is strong in syndicated shows.

The company has boasted that it represents clients behind more than two-thirds of TV shows airing on prime time. Those shows would give ICM a needed boost in its TV department.

Silbermann said the acquisition would be a good fit culturally for both agencies, which are located within blocks of each other in Beverly Hills. Both firms will move into ICM's new offices in the MGM tower in Century City at the beginning of next year.

For Broder, 66, this will be a third tour of duty at ICM and its predecessors. He worked briefly for International Famous Agency in the 1970s before it merged with Creative Management Associates to become ICM in 1975.

Broder returned after the merger, then quit again to start BWCS with partner Elliot Webb in 1978. He will become vice chairman of ICM.

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