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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Fleming’

Gersh Agency Forms Literary Unit

Variety’s Michael Fleming reports that the Gersh Agency, which until now had been almost exclusively focused on film and television rights, is now expanding into the book business. Phyllis Wender, previously one-half of Wender/Rosenstone until her partner, Jack Rosenstone, died recently, will run the division from Gersh’s New York HQ and will bring agents Sonia Pabley and Susan Cohen with her. In fact, Pabley told me last night at the Mystery Writers of America Agents & Editors party that she began working at Gersh as of April 1, where half her clients will be book-based (like Naomi Hirahara, nominee for the Best Paperback Original Edgar Award) and the other half theater-based.

“Most book agents know Phyllis, and her reputation and stature will dictate how the division will do business,” company president David Gersh told Variety. “We’ve wanted a good book division for years but never found the right person to run it. We think she will be a great combination with Amy Schiffman in Los Angeles and Sarah Self in New York, who make film and TV deals for authors.”

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Abate v. ICM: Judge Denies Preliminary Injunction Request

Josh Getlin at the LA Times reports that Judge Peter Leisure has ruled against ICM in their quest to block Richard Abate from working as an agent with Endeavor. The 18-page ruling issued earlier this afternoon stated that ICM had not proven that Abate’s decision to join Endeavor, before his contract expired, posed an imminent threat to the agency.

Variety’s Michael Fleming has more, including how Abate’s status at ICM – where his current contract runs until December 31 – will now be handed over to an arbitrator, who will decide what commissions are owed to ICM.

When reached for comment, Abate’s lead attorney, Brian Kaplan of Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman, LLP stated that “My client is extremely pleased with the Court’s decision, and looks forward to continuing to work on behalf of his clients.” In response to queries made to ICM, Richard Levy, the company’s general counsel, issued this statement: “We are disappointed with the Court’s decision. However, on behalf of our clients who rely on our efforts to protect their privacy and enforce the integrity of their contracts, Richard’s blatant misconduct compelled us to act. The final outcome now will be determined by an arbitrator. ICM has the preeminent publishing division in the industry and as always, our clients and continued outstanding service to them, comes first.”

Abate v. ICM, Day Two: Laying Out the Timeline

If there’s one thing yesterday’s proceedings in Judge Peter Leisure‘s courtroom demonstrated, it’s the extreme disconnect between legal relevance and true-blue drama. From a legal standpoint, all the preliminary injunction hearing (which wrapped up by 4 PM yesterday) accomplished was to show whether there was enough standing to hold Richard Abate to the terms of his ICM contract until the last day of 2007, or whether ICM’s contract, forbidding Abate to even discuss options with Endeavor, was anticompetitive according to New York law. That will be decided fairly quickly – likely within the week – as Leisure, testier and more impatient than he’d been on Thursday, remarked once more that he’d “never seen such a delay on proceedings for a preliminary injunction” as well as the scuttled TRO. From a contractual standpoint, either Abate left – thus violating his existing contract – or he was fired in passive-aggressive fashion because turning down a new offer imperiled his future and so he needed backup in case that happened.

But you’re not reading this lengthy account for legal wranglings (even though there were plenty, especially when Abate’s father-in-law, Harold Moore, could only testify in limited fashion thanks to attorney-client privilege, a point vigorously debated between ICM counsel A. Michael Weber and Abate’s lawyer Brian Kaplan.) You want the drama. And boy, was there drama, never more evident than when a steely-eyed Esther Newberg, pursing her lips and visibly unhappy to have spent most of the day cooling her heels in the jury room under sequestering until she was called to the stand around 2:30 PM, testified that she felt “betrayed” by Abate’s surprise exit on February 9, someone whom she characterized as being a close friend – though not anymore. Add Sloan Harris‘s testimony as well as Abate’s completion of his to the mix and the real story of this hearing is not so much about money, but about how seemingly close relationships deteriorated so suddenly, so badly – which might explain why the arbitration demand slapped upon Abate late last week is to the tune of $10 million dollars.

But first, let’s backtrack to the very beginning of the day’s events, when Judge Leisure reminded the court that the hearing ought to have wrapped up in a single day and he felt much of it was a waste of time. “I hope we can make some headway here,” he said, and while the court may not quite have got its wishes, the reporters in attendance – yours truly, the LA TimesJosh Getlin and a late-arriving Michael Fleming from Variety – certainly did.

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Endeavor Confirms Abate Hire, Book Expansion

A couple of weeks after we reported that former ICM literary agent Richard Abate was jumping ship to Endeavor to start up its brand-new literary division, Variety’s Michael Fleming has more on Abate’s move, which will keep him in New York, specifically operating out of existing offices Endeavor occupies in Carnegie Hall Towers. The goal of Endeavor’s expansion, Fleming explains, is not only to turn a profit by brokering book deals, but also to put the growing agency on the ground floor of film-friendly literary material that can be serviced to movie and TV clients and be the catalyst for packages. Abate is also bringing with him a list of about 50 authors, and has plans to grow a full-fledged business that will likely be staffed by at least five agents.

While some in the agenting business may be worried at what may transpire (considering Michael Ovitz‘s ill-fated attempt at literary agenting for AMG) sources at Endeavor tried their best to allay the fears of the lit agent community. Abate, they said, “has a long classy track record as a book agent, which is more civil and less predatory by nature than film and TV agent counterparts in Hollywood,” Fleming writes.