EXCLUSIVE: Resolution, the talent agency founded by former ICM chief Jeff Berg early last year, continues to change form. The agency has confirmed the exit of Jeff Franklin, the music agent who was COO and a key partner when Berg jumped ship and formed the new agency with backing from Jahm Najafi, a former Salomon Bros banker active in real estate and private equity with investments in diverse companies and brands. I’m told that Franklin shed the COO stripes a year ago. The agency would not comment beyond that.
I had heard that Franklin would be exiting for months, but it was difficult to get clarity until now. Resolution has found it a challenge to form an agency in the current climate where CAA, WME, UTA, ICM and Paradigm are all well established. Berg left ICM Partners somewhat acrimoniously when the partners of that agency discovered that he was setting up shop elsewhere. Berg then made some high profile hires, paying big bucks to land Adam Kanter and Martin Spencer from CAA, but they had trouble keeping clients like Doug Liman and Peter Segal. When those agents were asked to take pay cuts despite having contracts, they declined and exited. Both of them have resurfaced at Paradigm. Some at the agency felt that Resolution would be better suited not chasing star agents, but growing organically. I’ve heard that the lavish headquarters on 1801 Century Park East have been downsized a bit — the agency took the whole 23rd floor, and that they would absorb the growing pains that any percentery would experience trying to launch in this environment.
This followed an acrimonious exit by agent Martin Beck that resulted in a lawsuit filed in LA Superior Court for fraud, breach of contract, wrongful termination, and emotional distress in a 6-count complaint (read it here). The LA-based agent and 30-year ICM vet joined Resolution on July 8, 2013 and was terminated later that summer. Beck booked acts for Vegas casinos and was recruited by Resolution COO Jeff Franklin over the early part of the summer. Among Beck’s clients at ICM were Wayne Newton, Tony Orlando and Frankie Valli. Beck claimed he signed a two-year contract with Resolution for an annual salary of around $165,000 and contends that his severe medical issues would be accommodated. He maintains that he was not expected to bring any clients with him but Newton actually did come over as client.
Those defections occurred as Resolution was making first deal involving a Chinese company taking a financial stake in a Hollywood talent agency. Berg and David Unger, the talent agent who joined from ICM, engineered a deal with Beijing-based Bison Capital Holdings to make a big investment in the company, with Resolution advising and consulting for Bison, whose founder Peixin Xu serves as an independent director of China’s Bona Film Group, which is 17%-owned by 21st Century Fox. News Corp China Investments CEO Jack Gao joined Resolution’s board of directors as part of the deal. The agency had a big party at Cannes to trumpet its presence in the international landscape and in China. “This partnership will allow us to fund strategic expansion in the global marketplace,” Berg said at the time.