I know that Ed Limato’s negotiations with ICM are very fluid right now since his contract is up this month. But there’s an interesting push-pull surrounding this legendary motion picture agent. So consider this Part II to my original Rumor of ICM’s Limato To CAA ‘Ridiculous’ post. I hear that, despite the poker faces of all involved, the talks between ICM and Limato aren’t going well. “It’s turning into a mess,” one insider told me. There are two big sticking points: Will Ed remain part of ICM management? And what will he get paid? One proposal on the table is that Limato stay as an eminence gris and rep as usual his clients (including Denzel Washington, Mel Gibson, Richard Gere, Steve Martin, Liam Neeson, Billy Crystal) but relinquish his management role as co-president with Chris Silbermann. Relations are still good between Limato and chairman Jeff Berg, but there is indeed tension between Limato and Silbermann who came to ICM as an outsider in the Broder Kurland merger. “Have you seen All About Eve?,” an insider explained to me. “Ed isn’t getting the respect he’s owed. After all, he’s made this company millions.” Others say this squabble is Sunset Boulevard.
It’s always hard to effect generational change inside any company, much less a Hollywood agency. (Remember when William Morris did it in 2004 and all those partners left in a snit?) After the merger, some key agents jumped, or were pushed, from ICM with their clients in tow. Though it was decided early on that Silbermann would eventually run ICM, he told everyone he agreed to be co-president “out of respect” for Limato. But it’s also been Chris’ job to bang heads together and inject some discipline over Hollywood’s most independently minded agents who are now expected to act like team players. He has also been the main architect over the past year of elevating the next wave of ICM leadership. Leaders now in place are: in publishing (Sloan Harris); TV (Ted Chervin); TV literary (Chris Von Goetz and Kevin Crotty); and motion picture lit (Doug MacLaren and Nick Reed). But ICM doesn’t have enough movie stars right now, and something has to be done about it. Motion picture talent, although not the most profitable department in an agency (except for maybe CAA), is certainly the most important division of the agency as far as public image goes – and in Hollywood, public image is everything. Everyone’s feeling the pressure, including Limato even if he’s not in the office that much because he sets his own hours. Is it time for him to step down as co-president? Well, there’s decorum. Ed doesn’t want ICM’s motion pic department controlled solely by “a TV guy” out “for a power play”. This big screen vs small screen schism exists within every Hollywood agency. But, as Berg’s heir apparent, Silbermann has transcended Broder Kurland and is now the leader ICM always needed. Limato, however, is iconic within Hollywood.
On the money front, Ed makes a lot of moolah (supposedly, $5 million for salary and bonuses) and gets a lot of perks (supposedly, another mil at least for his Oscar party, two script readers, three assistants, and own business affairs person. Plus, Ed insists that all of his aides eventually be promoted to agent status.) Limato wants no more and no less than he’s made over the past couple of years. ICM wants him to downsize. There’s chatter that, if the talks go south, Ed could challenge his non-compete clause in the courts. Meanwhile, those “he’s headed to CAA” rumors persist. (A CAA honcho last week told me that’s not so.) Limato is telling pals that, as far as he knows, all his options are “open” at the major agencies. Some feel Ed has leverage with ICM because, without him, the tenpercentery will be seen as more out of the movie star business than it already is. Others think, if Limato exits, ICM is ready to bear the PR hit and look to hiring other reps or merging with another agency. But that’s not as easy as it sounds. Does Limato want to leave? I say not after he’s been at ICM for 30 of his 40 years in showbiz. “It’s not because of money. It’s because I love this company,” he told a pal the other day. “But, sometimes, love sours.”