UPDATE: *Duncan Heath this morning wants to go on the record with me as saying that my use of the term badmouthing to describe what he did was “too strong”. He says he likes to think of it more gently: as his British way of “taking the piss out” Hollywood institutions. Fine. Oh, and he wants to make it clear that his concern over CAA’s marble already showing scuffs was “a throwaway remark”.*
OK, I just knew that headline would grab your attention. No, it wasn’t Jeff Berg. It was the chairman of ICM UK, Duncan Heath, who was in town for meet ‘n’ greets. It’s confusing because Heath’s company used to be the British arm of the Hollywood talent biggie when in 1985, ICM Inc bought Duncan Heath & Associates. Then, in 1991, ICM merged Duncan Heath & Associates with its UK office, and Heath became chairman of ICM Ltd in London. During the 1990s, ICM benefited hugely from the explosion of interest in Hollywood for British talent. But in 2002, Heath initiated a management buyout so that ICM US retains only a minority stake and a shares a few clients like Peter Morgan and Michael Caine. Now Heath does business with CAA because they, too, share clients like Daniel Craig, Orlando Bloom, Sam Mendes, Guy Ritchie. (The commission split is 2/3 to CAA, 1/3 to Heath.)
At the CAA sitdown, Heath made news by saying he’s changing the name of his company from ICM UK to something different. Hopefully, it’ll be something catchy since Duncan did start his career in advertising. But he told CAA the reason he was doing it was his “declaration of independence” from ICM US. On the other hand, the reality seems to be that ICM licensed the “ICM” name to Duncan, and that license has expired. In addition, Heath and Berg decided to avoid further confusion since ICM US still has ICM Books based in London and a growing office in London.
I hear Heath sat in CAA headquarters and badmouthed Berg’s agency. (“Everyone in Europe now calls ICM US, ‘Broder, Kurland, Webb and Limato’.”) I’m also told Heath stopped by Berg’s office as well, and things between them seemed as cordial as ever. After all, Heath’s relationship with Berg goes back some 23 years. Sounds to me like Heath was trying to play both agencies against the middle so he’d hang on to those clients he shares with other Hollywood agencies. (He also made the rounds with Endeavor, United Talent, William Morris, Paradigm, etc..) Tsk, tsk. Meanwhile, I hear the highlight of Heath’s visit took place when he one-upped Bryan Lourd who at the time was showing off CAA’s new Century City digs. Duncan pointed out that the kind of marble CAA had used on all the floors of the agency’s new office space — which takes up most of the first three stories of 2000 Avenue Of The Stars as well as the stairs and the walls, creating an intimate mausoleum effect — was going to get damaged incredibly easily. With that, Lourd turned bright red, and starting yelling at his hapless minions.