2ND UPDATE: I’m told it’s all over between ICM and co-president and uber motion picture talent agent Ed Limato. It was made fairly clear to me for the past two weeks that this was not going to be resolved. Right now, I hear attorneys for the tenpercentery and for Limato are negotiating his exit. Very acrimoniously, I need to add. (See below) Technically, Limato is still under contract with ICM until everything, especially his clients’ current and future commissions, are worked out at an arbitration session slated for August 1. Limato’s attorneys served ICM with legal papers but there won’t be any lawsuits because Ed’s contract calls for arbitration.
Well, that was quick: because of my bombshell posting, ICM just issued a statement since both chairman Jeff Berg and co-president Chris Silbermann are rubbing elbows with the moguls at Camp Allen: “As part of a restructuring of ICM’s motion picture department to deliver long-term growth, ICM stated today that Ed Limato is no longer co-president of the agency. Mr. Limato will continue as a motion picture agent at the company. ‘ICM is restructuring the business to ensure that we develop the most innovative projects for our clients,’ said Jeffrey Berg, chairman and CEO of ICM. ‘As part of this process, the agency is making fundamental changes throughout the business to support the next generation of leadership. Ed has been a highly regarded member of our firm for the past 19 years, and we appreciate his efforts.’ Further developments with regard to the department’s restructuring for growth will be announced in due course.”
Here’s a real kick in the ass: Limato didn’t even know ICM’s announcement was coming down today. He learned about it when his assistant received the interoffice email and read it to him over the phone. “ICM has systematically done everything to humiliate me,” a Limato supporter quoted Ed as saying today. For its part, the ICM side says hurt feelings are inevitable when an agency undergoes “generational transformation” which is necessary if younger agents are going to play a bigger role in management and have a bigger stake in the tenpercentery. A source there dismissed the drama as “soap opera. The world still turns, and so does ICM.”
What a mess! Let me put it this way: the phrase “those lousy scumbuckets” is now being used in the Limato camp. “For 32 years, Ed brought them millions and millions of dollars,” an insider close to the iconic motion picture talent agent just told me. The ICM side points out that Jeff Berg tried hard to negotiate an emeritus status for the 71-year-old Limato, with less money and fewer perks and no management role but with a job for life. Ed wouldn’t agree to it.
Here are some more particulars I’ve gleaned. The agent’s attorneys “served legal papers” on ICM quite a while ago. The arbitration process was started. Repping Mel Gibson’s and Denzel Washington’s agent are two Beverly Hills pitbulls, showbiz’s Tom Hansen (of Hansen Jacobson) and litigator Miles Feldman (of Browne & Woods).
Why is this so ugly? Because a lot of he said/he said nastiness will ensue over slings and arrows ICM never, ever, wanted to leak out about goings-on inside the agency. Just as ICM is making this all about Ed, the Limato camp is making this all about ex-Broder Kurland partner Chris Silbermann, 39. At issue? Chris’s new role at ICM. I’m told that Limato’s legal eagles are claiming that ICM lied to him and violated his deal when the tenpercentery made a reputedly “secret pact” during the Broder Kurland merger to give Silbermann the ICM presidency, and thus force Ed out. “ICM made a deal with the devil when they took over Broder. Think about it: everyone wanted to buy Broder Kurland, and CAA wanted them desperately. But Broder goes with ICM. Why? Because Chris knew he’d be in charge.” The ICM side says the notion of a secret pact is “inflammatory and bullshit legal rhetoric”. As one agency insider told me: “Silbermann came into ICM as co-president with the understanding that he could learn from Ed and be a partner with him and Jeff. Chris met with Ed before anyone ever did the deal. There was never any secrecy about Chris’ position. We didn’t seek to harm Ed.”
Limato also is challenging the 3-year noncompete clause in his ICM contract which may not be legal in California. “That’s slavery,” a source close to the agent just told me. “He can’t go to work anywhere else even as a manager or agent. They believe they can force him into retirement and keep all his clients. That was their big plan. But that’s not going to happen.” The ICM side believes Limato should live up to the tenets of his contract.
I’m told Limato won’t even consider retiring. “I want to work for many years, and I want to work as an agent,” he told pals over the past few days. “I just simply can’t work at ICM anymore.” ICM agrees. “Ed needs to move on,” an insider there said.
This is yet more fallout from ICM’s 2006 merger with Broder Kurland. See my previous, Limato’s Negotiations With ICM In Limbo, for all the background. I do know Berg tried hard to keep Limato in the fold. But Silbermann is now very much ICM’s charge d’affaires. I understand that in the end both Berg and Silbermann were on board with the decision to see Limato leave (his contract was up in June), while Limato in turn didn’t really expect ICM to meet his terms because of his ongoing contretemps with Chris. I knew there was no way Limato would agree to rep as usual his clients (including Denzel Washington, Mel Gibson, Richard Gere, Steve Martin, Liam Neeson, Billy Crystal) but also relinquish his management role as co-president with Silbermann. Some felt Ed had leverage because, without him, ICM will be seen as more out of the movie star business than it already is. Others thought ICM was ready to bear the PR hit. Still, it’s the end of an era, since Limato has been at ICM for 30 of his 40 years in showbiz. Explaining it to a pal, Limato said a few weeks ago he loved the company. “But, sometimes, love sours.” All I can say is that this is really a damn shame.
OK, since you’ve asked for it, time for my speculation: Where will Limato go IF he can get around that noncompete clause? Well, he can always just handle his clients on his own and call himself a manager. Plus, Mel Gibson wants to get back to work as an actor so that means major moolah. (I hear Mel is looking at a couple of action buddy comedies.) But the advantage of being part of an agency is that the major ones get all the info first. The disadvantage is that a move is going to mean Limato will have less money, less perks and no management role, which was exactly what ICM was offering him. I’ve written before that CAA is a non-starter for him, and I still think that. Although with powerful allies like David Geffen, Limato might be able to finagle a deal there. What probably makes the most sense for Limato is to join Endeavor. I know what you’re thinking: Ed and Nancy Josephson and Robert Newman weren’t a match made in heaven, and Ari Emanuel stuck his foot in his mouth when he urged Hollywood to shun Gibson on the basis of Mel’s anti-Semitic drunken rant. But now they’re all united in their hatred of ICM. Adding the likes of Denzel and Mel would be a nice cherry on Endeavor’s motion picture talent sundae. Limato going to United Talent could work as well, since the patchwork quilt of Alpha Male personalities there could easily embrace an iconclast like Limato. Denzel in the next Ben Stiller pic? Cool. Then there’s William Morris, where Limato worked eons ago when he wasn’t at ICM. He and Jim Wiatt are ex-colleagues. Why not again? But then, as one ex-agent emailed me, “I’d take the devil I do know than the devil I don’t.”