BREAKING … ICM president Chris Silbermann and ICM Chief Business Development Officer & General Counsel Rick Levy took the red-eye from LA last night and arrived in New York this morning to confront the agency’s investor Suhail Rizvi and demand a management buyout as soon as possible. The pair’s goal is to eliminate the tenpercentery of majority shareholder Rizvi Traverse Management. This follows a 13-day-old demand by Silbermann and Levy to Rizvi to allow the management buyout. At that time, Rizvi said he would make a decision by Christmas. But that was not soon enough for Silbermann and Levy, who today tried to force Rizvi to make his decision sooner. Rizvi told the pair that he would have an answer for them Friday. Also Friday, Silbermann and Levy have demanded an ICM board meeting so they can present the management buyout proposal. At this point, however, sources tell me that the pair have not submitted a written proposal in advance to the board. Whether they can present a cohesive written proposal by Friday remains to be seen. Both Silbermann and Levy are on their way back from New York to LA tonight.
But what is really startling about ICM’s Silbermann right now is that he has involved none other than Michael Ovitz in his plans to take control of the agency. When I first heard about this several months ago, I asked Silbermann and Ovitz separately if they were speaking, planning, or at all involved together in ICM activities. Both Silbermann and Ovitz privately denied it. But I can confirm that Silbermann has been talking almost daily to Ovitz about the management buyout plan, as often as four times a day recently. My sources have seen the phone logs. Insiders tell me that Silbermann went to Ovitz for help in obtaining the necessary financial backing to accomplish the management buyout. I’m told that Ovitz is not interested in putting his own money into the agency at this point, but has been trying to introduce Silbermann to various financial backers. The fact that Silbermann has asked for and is receiving Ovitz’s advice and help in this ICM matter will become a hot-button issue not just inside ICM but around Hollywood in general. Ovitz remains one of Hollywood’s most controversial and disliked business personalities ever to achieve success in this town. His reputation was further tarnished recently when he made a move on giant sports and fashion management and production firm IMG when its owner and Ovitz’s longtime pal Teddy Forstmann was in the final stages of dying from brain cancer. (See Michael Ovitz And IMG World And Teddy Forstmann’s Brain Cancer: The Real Story, And Also What Ovitz Told Me About It.) Ovitz’s maneuvering as a member of IMG’s advisory board after he was placed on it by Forstmann attempted to dislodge Teddy’s hand-picked successor from running the company. After his maneuvering was discovered and publicized, Ovitz was his hand-picked successor. Hollywood responded with outrage to news of Ovitz’s maneuvering.
He was kicked off the board, shortly after, Forstmann died.There’s every reason to believe that Hollywood will be equally outraged that Silbermann is involving Ovitz in the ICM implosion. This is especially the case because for decades Ovitz was a key competitor to ICM chairman and CEO Jeff Berg, whom Silbermann wants to remove from controlling the agency. Berg in turn has been battling back. The infighting has torn apart ICM internally to the point where agents are being forced to choose sides between the two men. (continued Friday morning because of site technical problems)