2ND UPDATE: Whenever the exit of a major Hollywood player like Jeff Berg occurs late on a Friday, it is rarely by chance. I am hearing that the exit of Berg, and Carol Bodie for that matter, is directly related to the principals of ICM Partners learning of Berg’s plans to start a competitive business that already has funding lined up. That is why this happened so abruptly, and I’m hearing Berg will not be on the premises on Monday–Berg himself called to dispute this, saying he will hang around to help close up some deals and put things in order, joking, “I’m not being escorted out at gunpoint, there is no Bataan march going on here.” There is some spinning going on, but to say that Berg was fired (as some insiders have suggested) wouldn’t really be meaningful, when he is a month away from launching his own competitive venture anyway. But ICM Partners certainly forced his hand and that is the reason for the late Friday drama. It comes down to this: ICM Partners and Berg spent a few months since the buyout trying to figure out a way to work together going forward. They could not find common ground, and very shortly they will be competitors. It is hard to imagine that place without Berg, who made the original Star Wars deal, the deal for The Simpsons, and so many others. Berg still personally reps clients that include Roman Polanski and the estate of Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss. The latter is a huge piece of business. ICM Partners wanted to write its own history, and now it will get the chance, with the pieces that were combined from the original agency and the merged components of the TV-centric boutique Broder Kurland Webb Uffner. It is the first time in the agency’s long history that it has been completely owned by the agents who will drive its future.
1ST UPDATE: I am hearing that veteran ICM agent Carol Bodie will also be leaving the agency, and that is the extent of the shakeup at the percentery. She reps such talent as Jon Hamm. She wasn’t among the 29 who were minted as partners when the agency restructured in May, and so this doesn’t come as a huge shock.
At the same time, I have heard from Berg, who confirmed that he will be leaving immediately. He also said that he will be quickly transitioning to start a new agency venture in about a month. It’s something he has been contemplating since the May buyout, and he has put together capital to create a new organization. He’ll be bringing others along (I’ve heard rumors that Bodie might be part of this), and there will be representation, an advisory component and a sales aspect as well as a development piece that will have capital available for certain investments. Considering all the big deals that Berg has made–including buying and selling ICM three times–it seems clear that the agenting game is about to get very interesting again. Let’s face it, the rep business was getting a bit boring.
ICM confirmed the exit, and the release is at the bottom of Deadline’s original break.
EARLIER EXCLUSIVE, 5:07 PM: Jeff Berg, who became president of ICM in 1978 and lasted until he gave up the title in May, has left the agency, effective immediately.
Berg announced his exit internally today. This seemed inevitable when Berg gave up his president title back in May and became an agent, as part of the management buyout that was engineered by Berg, Chris Silbermann, Rick Levy and all the other partners. Part of that deal meant that Berg would make tens of millions of dollars over the next few years as the agency became 100% owned and operated by its agents in what amounted to a buyout of Berg and ICM’s major investor, Connecticut-based Rizvi Traverse Management. Both parties sold their interest for a combination of cash, preferred non-voting shares, and an ongoing financial interest in certain assets of the agency. Insiders said this exit was an extension of that buyout. I am trying to confirm that this is how Berg feels about it, but am awaiting a call back from him.
In his note to ICM staff, Berg said that for many months, he had been evaluating his personal goals and wanted to create his own structure in a new company as he moved forward in his career.
Los Angeles, October 26, 2012 – ICM Partners today announced that Jeffrey Berg, former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, will exit the agency. His departure comes in the wake of the agency’s management buyout and the formation of a partnership that owns and operates the agency. Comprised of each of the agency’s core departments, film, television, publishing and touring, the partnership was structured to bring control of the firm to its agents and executives.
In a joint statement, the partnership said, “Jeff played an integral role in the formation of ICM and its continuation for more than 35 years. We appreciate his contributions and wish him well. The goal of ICM Partners is to provide our clients with the best representation in the industry, while continuing our culture of collegiality and teamwork.”
“I’ve been considering a different path in the agency business and will be announcing my plans very shortly,” said Berg. “I’ve spent my career as an owner-operator and this is the right time for me to repeat that practice. This has been a long and successful association. I am proud of what we have achieved and the opportunities that the agency can embrace.”
In May, Rizvi Traverse and Berg sold their ownership interest in ICM to the partnership, and neither has since participated in the management of the agency or has served on its Board of Directors.
Berg joined Creative Management Associates (CMA), a predecessor of ICM, in 1969 as a film and literary agent. ICM was founded in 1975 from a merger of CMA and International Famous Agency. Berg was named president of ICM in 1980 and became Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in 1985, a title he held until May of 2012.