John Ferriter's $25M Lawsuit Against WME

UPDATES Ferriter Claims Unlawful Termination, WME Claims Told Him To Work
UPDATES Agent John Ferriter Declares War On WME
UPDATES John Ferriter & WME Feuding; “This Is Going To Get Ugly”
UPDATES John Ferriter “Hates” Coming Into WME

John Ferriter’s $25 million lawsuit alleging contractual fraud, wrongful termination, breach of contract, defamation/slander, and so on was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on November 17th against William Morris Endeavor Entertainment and the old William Morris Agency as well as board members Ari Emanuel and Rick Rosen as well as Mark Itkin. It is still inexplicable why Ferriter, the former William Morris board member and EVP and worldwide head of non-scripted TV, filed the 44-page lawsuit months after the merger, and months after WME kept him on despite a long hospital stay. Because it certainly seems that his anger is misdirected, in that his primary problem is with the bosses of the old William Morris Agency, especially Jim Wiatt and Irv Weintraub who were left out of the new company. In that sense, this legal complaint is an interesting window on the behind-the-scenes activity inside the Morris merger with Endeavor. But many see this lawsuit as Ferriter’s attempt to pump up his profile and salve his bruised ego. It reads like a love letter to himself, boasting about his “excellence, success, appreciation, admiration and respect”.

Ferriter complains that when it came time for him to negotiate a new contract at William Morris in the fall of 2008, WMA Compensation Committee members Jim Wiatt, Irv Weintraub, and Mark Itkin “refused” to meet with his attorney and demanded he bargain the terms himself. He claims they assured him that, if he signed a new deal, he’d retain his title and authority, keep the same resources and support staff, report to the same people, remain a Board member indefinitely, and take on “more of a leadership role”. According to Ferriter, he was given a 3-year contract paying him $2 million annually effective January 1, 2009.

But the agent says that, unbeknownst to him, the WMA brass — Wiatt, Weintraub, Dave Wirtschafter, John Fogelman, and Jennifer Rudolph Walsh — had been negotiating the terms of a merger in secret with Endeavor — including “working out sweetheart deals for themselves to the detriment of shareholders and other employees, including Ferriter.” He also alleges that Wiatt and Weintraub knew that Ferriter would no longer be a board member in the new entity nor run the non-scripted TV department in the merged company.

Ferriter claims he didn’t learn about the pending merger until March 2009 [presumably from my scoop]. When he confronted his Morris bosses, he said “Wiatt and Weintraub denied knowledge of any such merger with Endeavor. Itkin claimed to have no knowledge of the merger [which is true since Itkin wasn’t on the inside], and Wirtschafter was nonresponsive.” Ferriter claimed Wiatt and and Weintraub also denied any merger was afoot to a weekly staff meeting of the non-scripted TV department. It wasn’t until April 2009 that ferriter says he found out the merger was presentefd to the WMA Board of Directors by Wiatt and Weintraub “as a fait accompli”. Ferriter claims that’s when he learned that the terms of the merger “subordinated WMA’s position to Endeavor’s in the new entity as well as put himself “in an inferior position” than that specified in his new employment agreement.

One week before the WMA vote on the merger, Ferriter says he met with Ari Emanuel and Rick Rosen at the Bel Air Hotel on April 20th and that the two men promised him that nothing would change regarding his position or authority or running of his department “regardless of his individual vote”.

Ferriter says that on April 27th, he “voiced objections” about the merger to the WMA board, especially over what he called Endeavor’s true financial status and business assets. As I reported at the time, Ferriter was the only board member to vote against the merger. And a few days after, he fell seriously ill and was hospitalized for 2 months while the merger was finalized. In that time, Ferriter says, his contract was assigned to WME without his consent. He also did not receive a seat on the new agency’s board. But Itkin did, and, according to Ferriter, broke promises to protect Ferriter’s position and authority inside WME.

So when Ferriter returned to work on July 22nd, he says he no longer had a title or was considered a department head. His support staff and resources were drastically reduced, and his authority and responsibilities were reassigned to subordinates. “He was demoted and marginalized.”

Ferriter contends that when he voiced objections about “mismanagement” of the non-scripted TV department, WME “began a campaign of harassment and retaliation so as to create an “intolerable and hostile workplace” that was “designed to drive Ferriter out of the agency”. Ferriter also claims he was publicly chastised by Emanuel as “disloyal” for his negative merger vote. Among Ferriter’s claims, WME excluded him from client meetings and company communications, barred him from the premises and from speaking to WME employees, made defamtory and derogatory statements about his competency and moral character to co-workers and 3rd parties, investigated him, and labeled him a “troublemaker”.

Ferriter claims that during a one-on-one meeting on October 13th, Ari Emanuel told him that if he did not get on board, Emanuel “did not know what he would do’. Ferriter describes this as a threat. Ferriter says more defamation and isolation of him ensued from Emanuel, Rosen, and Itkin in what was an attempt to take over his clients.

Ferriter notes that my post dated October 16th stated that Ferriter “hated coming into the office”. But he’s wrong about the sourcing. That news did not come from “WME insiders”, as the lawsuit contends. Instead, I can reveal it came from Ferriter’s own mouth to colleagues at a rival agency. But Ferriter appears to have over-reacted to my article, and demanded that WME cease making statements to the press about him. Which they weren’t. later that day, Ferriter claims he heard from two of his client’s managers that WME told them he had resigned from the agency.

Much of the rest I’ve already reported: how on October 17th, Ferriter claims he received an attorney’s letter from WME stating he was now barred from his office and the agency’s premises. But how WME still expected him to fulfill all his contractual obligations with regard to the agency and clients. How a tug of war ensued over his clients. How WME kept insisting that Ferriter had resigned his employment. How Ferriter was then told his office was still available to him if he chose to “return to work” — which ferriter now characterizes as a “pretense”.

Ferriter claims that he gave notice to WME on October 27th that the agency’s activities against him constituted a termination of his employment. He says that, on November 6th, WME called a town hall meeting to announce it had terminated Ferriter “for cause purportedly for insubordination” and did not pay him the balance of the compensation due under his employment contract.

Because of all of the above, Ferriter is claiming he has suffered “emotional injuries and ailments” including “shock, worry, anxiety, embarrassment, humiliation, fear, loss of asleep, depression, mental anguish, angst, uncertainty, nervousness, damage to his nervous system, loss of emotional tranquility, related mental and physical injuries and mental distress, and other pain and suffering”.

Well, Ferriter did promise that “things were going to get ugly” when he went to war against WME. Problem is, I still think his primary battle is with the old WMA. And, frankly, I find this lawsuit is lacking in gory details.

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