Talent agency veteran Jeff Berg is leaving ICM Partners after 35 years, the agency announced on Friday.
Berg had been the chairman and CEO of the agency since 1985, but when ICM became a partnership in May — buying out private equity firm Rizvi Traverse and Berg to do so — Berg was not named a partner. The omission of Berg from the partnership was a clear sign his time at the agency was nearing an end.
Berg has been planning his exit since the spring and ICM Partners was trying to make it a smooth transition, two individuals close to the agency told TheWrap. When the partners discovered that Berg was trying to launch his own company, they forced his hand.
Berg had long been one of the premiere film agents in Hollywood, representing clients that include Al Pacino, Roman Polanski and the late Sidney Lumet.
“I’ve been considering a different path in the agency business and will be announcing my plans very shortly,” Berg said in a statement. “I’ve spent my career as an owner-operator and this is the right time for me to repeat that practice. This has been a long and successful association. I am proud of what we have achieved and the opportunities that the agency can embrace.”
Seeds of discord were planted in 2005 when investor Rizvi Traverse took a 40 percent stake in the company.
In 2006, ICM bought boutique agency Broder Webb Chervin Silbermann. The acquisition was intended to strengthen ICM’s television department, which has become a point of strength for the agency.
However, the new agents eventually clashed with Berg over their vision for the company as they sought to extricate themselves from their relationship with Rizvi.
After months of negotiations, ICM completed its buyout of Rizvi, and minted the new shop ICM Partners. More than 25 agents were made partners, but a few high-profile agents were not. That list included not just Berg, but also Carol Bodie, whom the agency let go on Friday as well.
Though she represents clients like Jon Hamm and Jada Pinkett-Smith, the agency felt that Bodie did not fit with the new team or its approach. Ever since the formation of the partnership, the partners have been discussing who should stay, who should go and who they should hire. Cultivating the right group has been the focus, even if it meant losing high-profile agents.
Also Read: Jon Hamm Rep Carol Bodie Out at ICM Partners
Partners Nicole Clemens and Bob Broder left to pursue ventures outside the agenting business, and their clients remain with the agency. Broder still has an office there. The departures of Berg and Bodie are far more acrimonius — though cloaked in kinder verbiage.
“Jeff played an integral role in the formation of ICM and its continuation for more than 35 years," the partnership said in a statement. "We appreciate his contributions and wish him well. The goal of ICM Partners is to provide our clients with the best representation in the industry, while continuing our culture of collegiality and teamwork.”
Berg had been with the agency since its inception in 1975, having previously worked at Creative Management Associates (one of two agencies that formed ICM).