This week, ICM lost a bid to prevent Limato from getting out of his employment contract, which was to expire in 2010, when a state judge ruled in an arbitration hearing that he was free to leave and could take his clients with him. William Morris announced Thursday that Limato would return to the firm, where he worked as an agent from 1978 to 1988.
Limato declined to comment.
The Limato incident, which has fostered ill will toward Berg and Silbermann in the movie industry, comes on the heels of an embarrassing public mudslinging in March, when ICM went to court to prevent literary agent Richard Abate from defecting to Endeavor to start a New York literary division. ICM lost that battle.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, August 23, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part Page Metro Desk 1 inches; 35 words Type of Material: Correction
Talent agency: An article in Friday's Business section about talent agency International Creative Management incorrectly identified the firm that actress Julia Roberts defected to. She left ICM for Creative Artists Agency, not William Morris Agency.
Last year, veteran television agent Nancy Josephson -- who was credited with bringing in the lucrative "Friends" package and whose father, Marvin, was one of the agency's founders -- was fired over the telephone by Berg when she was at home recuperating from surgery, two people familiar with the incident said.
Josephson moved on to Endeavor, where she was later joined by one of ICM's top film agents, Robert Newman.
Although people close to Silbermann say his lack of motion picture experience could be his Achilles heel, those who know him say he should not be underestimated.
"He will learn the business quickly," said veteran movie producer Mark Gordon, who launched his television career with Silbermann and is an executive producer of "Grey's Anatomy." "He listens and he is extremely bright. I think that he will certainly succeed in movies the same way he has in television."
ICM has historically been a major contender in the television business and the purchase of Broder only strengthened its hand.
The agency collects lucrative fees for helping put together the creative elements behind such shows as "Grey's Anatomy," "House," "Two and a Half Men," "The Simpsons" and "America's Next Top Model." It also collects millions of dollars in royalties from such syndicated shows as "Friends" and "Sex and the City."
The television revenue is particularly important to ICM's new owners. Unlike the other major agencies, which are privately held and controlled by their partners, ICM is owned by financial partners that are extremely focused on the bottom line.
That could make it particularly difficult to rebuild ICM's film and literary departments, which can take years to pay any dividends. For actors and directors to become major stars, they must often take roles in lower-budget prestige movies that are less profitable for their agents but help build careers.
Silbermann acknowledges that his first year was challenging but says the transition is now complete and the remaining agents are bound by a shared philosophy.
"You are either on the bus or off the bus," he said. "We want to build a winning culture."
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Current movie clients
* Samuel L. Jackson, recent work: "1408"
* Halle Berry, "X-Men: The Last Stand"
* Jodie Foster, "Flightplan"
* Julia Stiles, "The Bourne Ultimatum"
* Susan Sarandon, "In the Valley of Elah"
* Holly Hunter, "Saving Grace" (TV show)
* Hayden Christensen, "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith"
* Michael Caine, "Children of Men"
* Paul Bettany, "The Da Vinci Code"
* Jennifer Connelly, "Blood Diamond"
* Christopher Walken, "Hairspray"
* James L. Brooks, "The Simpsons Movie"
* Roman Polanski, "The Pianist"
* Nancy Meyers, "The Holiday"
* Stephen Frears, "The Queen"
* Rob Marshall, "Chicago"
Clients lost over the years
* Jay Roach, "Meet the Fockers"
* Mel Gibson, "Apocalypto"
* Orlando Bloom, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End"
* Reese Witherspoon, "Walk the Line"
* Julia Roberts, "Charlie Wilson's War"
* Richard Gere, "The Hoax"
* Cameron Diaz, "Shrek the Third"
* Spike Lee, "Inside Man"
* Denzel Washington, "American Gangster"
* Michelle Pfeiffer, "Hairspray"
* Russell Crowe, "American Gangster"
* Andy and Larry Wachowski, "The Matrix"
* Baz Luhrmann, "Moulin Rouge"
* Robert Rodriguez, "Grindhouse"
* Adrian Lyne, "Unfaithful"
* Steve Martin, "The Pink Panther"
Source: Times research