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Posts Tagged ‘Richard Abate’

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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Abate v. ICM, Day Two: ICM Strikes Back

Richard Abate was understandably relieved to finally leave the stand around 2 PM or so, having been grilled at great extent by both his own counsel as well as ICM‘s. Not only do we know know a hell of a lot about what happened leading up to his departure, but also about some of his pending deals, such as YA superstar Lisi Harrison‘s new deal, “the biggest in ICM history”, Chuck Hogan‘s probable collaboration with PAN’S LABYRINTH director Guillermo Del Toro, and of course, a whole lot of financial information. But the fun really began when Esther Newberg took the stand and related her side of events.

“I did view him as my friend,” Newberg said pointedly, making it extremely clear she now thought otherwise. “He never mentioned any interest in Endeavor,” even while he talked off and on about not being ready to make a decision with regards to the contract renewal, that he needed to talk to his wife or maybe go off on his own. Newberg claimed Abate’s reticence stemmed from being unhappy, jealous even, about Sloan Harris‘s elevation to co-president of ICM when he was only four years older than Abate. And that is where the betrayal – which Newberg stated she “felt then and now” – stemmed from: “[Abate] told me it didn’t bother him that Harris, only four years older with a stunning client list, was elevated.” Even though Newberg thought highly of Abate – “we wanted him to renew, and made it clear he could do whatever he wanted, even fly back and forth between New York and Los Angeles because he had an interest in doing more Hollywood work” – she never viewed him as a possible co-president as ICM didn’t think “he had enough judgment” for the position.

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More on Abate/ICM/Endeavor Triangle Tango

Josh Getlin had a short piece in this weekend’s Los Angeles Times about last week’s lawsuit slapped upon former ICM agent Richard Abate, rehashing many of the details already reported on his exit for new digs at Endeavor and ICM’s alleging that he violated the terms of his contract – which runs through the end of this year — by moving to an arch-competitor ahead of time. Though no one spoke to Getlin publicly by name, one anonymous agent’s comment reflected the industry’s fascination with the impending lawsuit and its implications. “This kind of lawsuit normally doesn’t happen in the publishing world unless you’re playing at a very high level in the business,” said one veteran agent. “Usually these disputes get settled quietly. But when you’re a big agency and you’re threatened by the loss of clients, you don’t just take it sitting down. You have to make a statement — and that’s what this is really all about.”

Meanwhile, for those like me who wondered why Gawker kept inserting throwaway insults about Abate’s reputation and character, current La Jolla University doctoral student Ted Gideonse offers his own perspective. He interviewed with Abate in 2002 when looking for work as an agent’s assistant, and knowing of Abate’s penchant for attending “every thesis reading at Columbia and Iowa and pouncing on the best writers” thought it couldn’t hurt to mention the upcoming readings at Gideonse’s then-graduate program, the New School. “I was trying to be nice and proud of my school and I thought it couldn’t hurt the school’s reputation if a major agent came, listened, and signed some folks. Also, I was hoping this little gift would help get my a job,” Gideonse explained.

Except things didn’t work out as planned. “First, he told me he’d hired someone else, and then he asked me who was good, and who he should sign. My jaw dropped. I muttered something and then he went and started pouncing.” But Gideonse had the last word, telling those Abate approached of his rep and “that if they were looking for a good agent, I could suggest some better people.” Gideonse’s quest landed him with Ann Rittenberg, and Abate found the assistant he needed in Kate Lee, who hasn’t fared too badly since landing at ICM.

ICM Sues to Block Abate Move to Endeavor

Whoa, just a few days after Variety’s reporting of Richard Abate‘s upcoming move to Endeavor to headstart its literary division (a report, we might add, was covered on GalleyCat weeks ago) ICM is now fighting back in a big way, filed a complaint in Federal Court, Southern District of New York, seeking to stop Abate from working for Endeavor on the grounds that he remains under a binding contract that prevents him from working for a competitor.

Variety now reports that according to the filing
, ICM claimed that it hired Abate in 1996 from a publishing house job that paid $20,500, and that in ten years he was making over $200,000 and received a bonus last December of $85,000. While ICM tried to renegotiate and extend Abate, the agency halted that upon learning he’d negotiated a deal with Endeavor, informing ICM on Feb. 9 that he wanted to leave. He did so, according to the complaint, before a resolution of his non-compete pact could be negotiated. A hearing is expected on March 19, no one was commenting and no word on how this would affect any or all of Abate’s 50-plus clients, many of which were expected to follow him to Endeavor. But even if this gets settled out of court, there’s probably not a terribly happy ending in sight…

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.

Abate Leaves ICM for Endeavor

When Gawker ran an item late last week about ICM uberagent Richard Abate possibly jumping ship, they seemed to think that he would be running his own outfit called Endeavor, which “strikes us as an odd choice of nomenclature, since there’s already an Endeavor agency — albeit an LA-based one that doesn’t solely represent literary clients. Well as it happens, Abate is leaving to join Ari Emanuel‘s outfit (which, oddly enough, ICM was rumored to be buying a year ago) to spearhead its expansion into literary matters. Our understanding is that several of his clients have already made arrangements to follow Abate to his new digs after he informed them of his news a week or so ago. (attempts to reach Abate as of this writing went unacknowledged.)

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