EXCLUSIVE: The lawyers on both sides were starting to sweat a bit, but nearly a month after almost formally ruling on whether to halt the court battle between the uber-agencies over the spring 2015 poaching of five senior CAA comedy agents and many of their clients by UTA, the judge has now made her move — and its 2-0 for CAA in what is still a very fluid situation.
L.A. Superior Court Judge Nancy Newman finally ruled Tuesday to pause the open court case against UTA and ex-CAA agents Greg Cavic and Greg McKnight. “After further review, the court adopts its tentative ruling as reflected in the August 12, 2015 minutes as the final ruling of the court,” says the September 27 ruling on the motion to stay. In what is a housecleaning of sorts, this now takes the matter off the docket until “arbitration is resolved,” as Newman said at the September 2 hearing where she almost made her tentative final but then pulled back. In a battle that has gone from fierce to farce and back again more than once, this stay actually was sought by CAA in its own proceedings — something UTA attorneys mocked repeatedly as they argued unsuccessfully against granting it.
In a separate ruling Monday, Newman also said that “after further review, the tentative ruling is adopted” denying UTA’s motion for a new arbitration on if the LLC agreements inked by the two Gregs and fellow ex-CAAers Jason Heyman, Martin Lesak and Nick Nuciforo is worth starting up. “The motion is denied, without prejudice,” the ruling on the petition added, letting in some of the sunlight that the judge indicted in the previous hearing that UTA could come back on the matter at a later date.
A total of 10 comedy agents exited CAA for UTA in March 2015, with a number of their big clients not far behind. CAA instigated the legal action on April 2 last year. That multi-claim complaint was followed by a first amended complaint last September. Since then every exec and the kitchen sink has been pulled into the matter in the subsequent volley of fiery filings.
Neither UTA nor CAA responded to requests for comment today, though in the latter’s case that might be because they and their Proskauer Rose LLP lawyers are taking some time for a happy dance. Interestingly, while not a win for UTA, these rulings do help clarify where the court’s thinking is and could open up new avenues of opportunity for them that lead to the next steps they might or might not take.
All of which is to say, behind closed doors and out in open court eventually, these latest rulings mean the sometimes increasingly personal agent-poaching clash is still far from over.
Bryan Freedman, Sean Hardy and Brian Turnauer of Freedman + Taitelman, LLP are representing UTA. Miles Feldman of Raines Feldman LLP and Rich Frey from Venable LLP are also working for the agency in the matter. (Full disclosure: Freedman + Taitlman LLP have represented Deadline’s parent company PMC in various legal matters.)