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International Creative Management agents complete buyout of firm

Top agents at ICM, whose clients include Ellen DeGeneres, Al Pacino and Megan Fox, are now partners at the 400-person company after acquiring it from CEO Jeff Berg and a private equity firm.

May 24, 2012|By Meg James, Los Angeles Times
  • ICM Chairman and CEO Jeff Berg, long a fixture in Hollywood power circles, will cede his board seat and management role with the sale, although he intends to remain at the firm.
ICM Chairman and CEO Jeff Berg, long a fixture in Hollywood power circles,… (Alberto E. Rodriguez, Getty…)

Top agents at International Creative Management on Wednesday completed the buyout of the agency from longtime Chairman and Chief Executive Jeff Berg and private equity firm Rizvi Traverse Management — ending a long-running management drama at one of Hollywood's leading agencies.

Staff members of the 400-person firm celebrated with a champagne breakfast.

Twenty-nine agents are now partners who will own and control the Century City-based firm, which has been renamed ICM Partners. The agency represents such top stars as Ellen DeGeneres, Al Pacino, Megan Fox and "Hunger Games" star Josh Hutcherson.

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, long 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 financial position 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" as well as Christopher Lloyd, co-creator of"Modern Family," and Vince Gilligan, the creator of"Breaking Bad."

However, the merger of the two corporate cultures of Broder Webb and ICM proved bumpy. And, despite an improved balance sheet and increased power in the TV business, 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 agency's core businesses — film, television, publishing and touring. The partnership includes Silbermann, Ted Chervin, Kevin Crotty, Chris von Goetz, Eddy Yablans, Richard Levy, Greg Lipstone, Sloan Harris and Robert Broder, John Burnham, Toni Howard and Amanda Urban.

Silbermann forfeited his president title. The agent-owners 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."

meg.james@latimes.com

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