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ICM agents complete buyout of agency from Berg and Rizvi Traverse

May 23, 2012|By Meg James
  • ICM's building in Century City. Twenty-nine agents completed a buyout of one of Hollywood's largest talent agencies.
ICM's building in Century City. Twenty-nine agents completed a buyout… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

Top agents at International Creative Management on Wednesday completed the buyout of the agency from longtime chairman and chief executive Jeff Berg and the private investment firm Rizvi Traverse Management -- ending the long-running management drama at one of Hollywood's leading talent agencies.

Twenty-nine agents are now partners who will own and control the Century City-based talent agency, which has been renamed ICM Partners.

Financial details were not disclosed.

Rizvi Traverse and Berg sold their equity interest "for a combination of cash, preferred non-voting shares and an ongoing interest in certain assets of the company," the new partners said in a statement.

Berg, a fixture in Hollywood power circles, will cede his board seat and management role, although he intends to remain with the agency.

"I plan to return to my office next week and go to work," Berg said Wednesday during a call from France, where the Cannes Film Festival has been running. "I'm not going to have an active role in the management of the business, but I've got a very full agenda and I want to continue to do what I love doing."

The buyout plan has been in the works for about nine months, and was first announced in early December.  It followed great upheaval in the agency, which came to a head last fall when the group of senior agents, led by President Chris Silbermann, demanded a new ownership structure that would allow the agents to control their business and reinvest profits to rebuild the agency, which has struggled through years of defections by top stars and talent agents.

Michigan-based Rizvi Traverse Management had acquired controlling interest in ICM in 2005 for more than $75 million. A year later, the firm invested an additional $70 million for ICM to acquire the TV agency powerhouse Broder Webb Chervin Silbermann.  The move bolstered ICM's financials because of Broder Webb's representation of high-earning TV producers, including Chuck Lorre, who created "Two and a Half Men" and "Big Bang Theory."  

However, it was a bumpy merger of the two corporate cultures of Broder Webb and ICM.  And despite an improved balance sheet, the agency continued to lose status in the prestige-conscious film industry.  In addition, the management structure became an obstacle in allowing the agency to recruit and retain top agents. 

The 29 agents who now control ICM Partners represent a cross-section of the agencies core businesses -- film, television, publishing and touring. The partners are: Lorrie Bartlett, Bonnie Bernstein, Robert Broder, John Burnham, Ted Chervin, Nicole Clemens, Carter Cohn, Harley Copen, Kevin Crotty, Dan Donahue, Emile Gladstone, Mark Gordon, Sloan Harris, Paul Hook, Toni Howard, Chuck James, Michael Kagan, Steve Levine, Richard Levy, Greg Lipstone, Esther Newberg, Janet Carol Norton, Dar Rollins, Adam Schweitzer, Chris Silbermann, Amanda Urban, Chris von Goetz, Joanne Wiles and Eddy Yablans. (Silbermann forfeited his president title. The agents in the reconstituted agency will not have titles other than "partner.")

“This is an important day for our clients and agents as we begin the transformation of ICM into ICM Partners," the group said in a statement. "Our mission remains to help our clients achieve their goals with the best, most strategic representation in the industry, while providing our fellow partners and associates with a culture of teamwork, collegiality and opportunity."

For his part, Berg, 64, said: "This deal recognizes the generational changes that have gone on in this business."

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ICM announces management buyout

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