Cannes Lions Rivals Michael Kassan, MediaLink, Mark Their Territory at the Hotel du Cap

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The two firms went head to head at the Hotel du Cap, but the talk was that Lenny Kravitz is now celibate

Jeremy Zimmer and Michael Kassan
Jeremy Zimmer and Michael Kassan (Christopher Smith/TheWrap)

On a balmy night at the luxurious Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc this week, MediaLink and its parent company UTA celebrated a VIP-packed party with a performance from superstar Lenny Kravitz.

The Tuesday night bash was MediaLink’s annual, marquee Cannes Lions event. Donna Sharp and Andrea Kerr Redniss, both promoted to run marketing consulting at MediaLink, introduced the event before handing over to iHeartMedia’s Bob Pittman, the co-host.

On the same night at the same Hotel du Cap, former MediaLink CEO Michael Kassan, who dramatically departed his own company in March this year, went ahead and launched his new firm 3C Ventures, despite a legal dispute over whether he’s allowed to compete.

Ever the player, Kassan boldly threw a buzzy cocktail party for 100 VIP guests at the hotel’s upstairs Champagne Bar to introduce 3CV.

That’s the kind of throw down it’s been at Cannes Lions as the two former business partners each tried to prove they were still the boss of the Croisette.

“It’s been a Hello Dolly week,” Kassan, 73, told TheWrap on the phone from Cannes. “For a time she was the belle of ball, then she went away for a while. And when she came back, she was paraded around by everyone. The point of it is — welcome back. I’m the belle of the ball.” 

Super-connector Kassan, who founded MediaLink in 2003, resigned from UTA and MediaLink in March this year following, he says, a series of disagreements and alleged broken promises. The agency insists he was fired, and has alleged in a lawsuit that he stole money from the company via a lavish expense account and fraudulent spending on personal extravagances.

The parties have since been embroiled in an ongoing legal dispute, which will determine Kassan’s right to compete. That dispute is now headed for arbitration.

Lenny Kravitz Performs At iHeartMedia And MediaLink Dinner During The Cannes Lions Festival
(L-R) Bob Pittman, Chairman and CEO, iHeartMedia, Inc., Lenny Kravitz, UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer and Rich Bressler, president, COO and CFO of iHeartMedia, Inc. at Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc (Getty Images)

MediaLink has for years been a major connector of brands with celebrities and media at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity in the South of France. Under UTA this year, the company has enjoyed its usual front-and-center presence, with a busy meeting space adjacent to Le Palais de Festivals, a keynote speech by UTA client Jessica Alba and its big annual VIP Tuesday night party at the Hotel du Cap in Antibes.

But Kassan has held his own too, holding meetings at the Carlton Hotel, and presenting his client, Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz, with the Entertainment Person of the Year Award on Friday morning at the Palais des Festival.

The festival is the advertising and marketing industry’s biggest annual worldwide awards, discussion and networking event and runs this week through Friday.

On Tuesday, Kassan’s bash formally ended before the MediaLink and iHeartMedia soirée kicked off in the Grill restaurant below, but Kassan and his close allies continued with dinner upstairs at the hotel’s Lou Roc Restaurant.

A source told TheWrap that Kassan “became emotional” as he introduced his new firm and thanked attendees for their loyalty to him during this transition. He also avoided looking down at the MediaLink party happening below, the source noted.

Kassan’s new company 3CV is a consultancy, but he insists it is a “higher level” version of MediaLink to help brands navigate the media landscape, connect influential creatives and CEOs while solving business problems. The company is named after the three core practices Kassan has extolled in his career — “consulting, convening and co-investing.”

MediaLink declined to comment for this story.

“I was fortunate that 18 years ago, I was able to look around the corner and I saw the opportunity to create MediaLink,” Kassan told TheWrap. “The benefit I have now is this: Many years later I’m at an inflection point where I can look around the corner again. But the advantage I have is my eyesight is better now.”

He added: “I have sharper vision because I have that much more experience. That’s going to be the difference. I’m not going to major in the minor, I’m going to major in the major.”

Under the new firm, Kassan intends to continue his strategic business consultancy while formalizing a family office to invest in start-ups, emerging technology and other businesses. He previously told TheWrap that he already has 10 clients signed up, with more waiting in the wings.

Kassan’s non-compete with UTA and MediaLink will be determined at an arbitration hearing at a date yet to be set. In the meantime, he is proceeding with signing clients and setting up his competing business, leveraging his contacts and connections.

While many were expecting fireworks on the Cannes Croisette if Kassan ran into his new foe, UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer, a source said that both attended Snap’s dinner at the Hotel du Cap on Sunday night and remained dignified at separate tables.

UTA continues to insist that if an arbitrator agrees Kassan was terminated for cause, he would be barred from poaching MediaLink clients and staff and from competing with his former consultancy. But Kassan’s lawyers strongly dispute this, and state that under his UTA contract he refused a nearly $10 million payout to be able to compete.

Kassan’s attorney Sanford Michelman insists Kassan can compete. “Michael Kassan filed his arbitration as a plaintiff alleging UTA committed fraud, among other things,” Michelman told TheWrap. “In response, UTA manufactured a baseless expense argument and the false and misleading narrative that they would try and stop Michael from competing, as a deflection play.” 

The lawyer continued: “As it has now turned out, UTA withdrew all requests to even seek a preliminary injunction against Michael Kassan. That injunction was their attempt to stop him from competing and they withdrew it. Consequently, Michael Kassan is free to compete and is doing so. He is also looking forward to the eventual successful outcome in his fraud case against UTA.”

A UTA spokesperson said in a statement to TheWrap that “the non-compete remains in place and we continue to pursue this matter through all legal means. It is unfortunate that in order to drum up attention for himself, Kassan is misrepresenting his ability to take on clients.”

An individual who attended both MediaLink and Kassan’s parties on the same night told TheWrap of the awkward situation. “MediaLink under UTA will continue to be a success as a strategic advisory firm, particularly now that UTA has its powerful client roster behind the business and they have an experienced staff.

“But many industry players strongly feel that Michael Kassan can and will forge his own path,” the source said. “There remains a lot of loyalty to Kassan in the business, he has received strong support from his friends and contacts at Cannes Lions.”

The source noted that some at the event “felt it was awkward” that Kassan held an event on the same night at the Hotel du Cap as MediaLink, “because they want to support both Kassan and MediaLink.”

As for the talk of Cannes Lions, the source explained that most people at the MediaLink party were not so concerned about Kassan, but were actually shocked that Kravitz admitted he’s been celibate for nine years in a recent interview with the Guardian.

“Lenny was crazy good, and he looked amazing,” the source said. “Talk about somebody who never ages.” As for his claimed celibacy, “How is that even possible?”

Liza Foreman contributed to this story from Cannes


3 responses to “Cannes Lions Rivals Michael Kassan, MediaLink, Mark Their Territory at the Hotel du Cap”

  1. Emily Avatar

    Seems pretty ballsy of Kassan to host a party on the floor above MedLink. But Cannes Lions really is his baby. It would have been more surprising if he hadn’t made such a bold move.

  2. Tyler Avatar

    Congrats to Kassan for pulling off the launch. Can’t wait to see what we get out of 3C Ventures.

  3. Emmy Avatar

    “My eyesight is better now.” Yeah, I bet it is without Zimmer and UTA standing in the way.  

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