ICM Finalizes Buyout of Rizvi Traverse and Jeff Berg

ICM agency to be run by 29 different partners from all of its departments 

ICM completed its buyout of private equity company Rizvi Traverse and Chairman Jeff Berg, establishing a partnership of approximately 29 agents who will oversee the agency.

It will now be known as ICM Partners, with a group of co-owners that spans every department.

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Berg is notably absent from the list of partners, which goes as follows: Lorrie Bartlett, Bonnie Bernstein, Robert Broder, John Burnham, Ted Chervin, Nicole Clemens, Carter Cohn, Harley Copen, Kevin Crotty, Dan Donahue, Emile Gladstone, Mark Gordon, Sloan Harris, Paul Hook, Toni Howard, Chuck James, Michael Kagan, Steve Levine, Richard Levy, Greg Lipstone, Esther Newberg, Janet Carol Norton, Dar Rollins, Adam Schweitzer, Chris Silbermann, Amanda Urban, Chris von Goetz, Joanne Wiles, and Eddy Yablans.

As part of the new plan, there will be no leadership titles like CEO or president. Under Rizvi, which took a 40 percent stake in the company in 2005, Berg was Chairman and CEO while Silbermann was president.

"This is an important day for our clients and agents as we begin the transformation of ICM into ICM Partners," the partners said in a statement. "ICM Partners, now under the complete control of a partnership of agents, is committed to expanding the agency’s core businesses of film, television, publishing and live events for the benefit of clients and associates alike."

This new structure gives the partners a chance to divest themselves of the shackles of outside ownership and enables them to properly direct resources to securing top-tier talent and agents.

Despite reports of problems at ICM, it has had no trouble making money, particularly when it comes to television, publishing and touring. Its weakness has been in film.

The deal was completed without any outside financial assistance, paying Berg and Rizvi with cash, non-voting shares and “an ongoing interest in certain assets of the company.” 

The real problem last year was internal conflict, in particular a fissure between Berg and Silbermann. Silbermann joined ICM in 2006 after it bought boutique agency Broder Webb Chervin Silbermann. The acquisition was intended to strengthen ICM’s television department, and it has become a point of strength for the agency as the film unit has withered.

Also Read: ICM Drama Over: Agency Reaches Deal to Become Partnership

Yet Berg and Silbermann clashed, and last by winter it appeared Silbermann might leave with some of his allies to start a new agency. However, his power play eventually resulted in this partnership.

"This deal allows the next generation of leadership to participate in the success of the business, which is what we promised when we secured Rizvi Traverse as investors," berg said in a statement. "I look forward to working with the partners in representing artists in all areas of the company.”

While other agencies like WME and CAA have recently turned to private equity, ICM is choosing to place the power back in the hands of the agents. The hope is that this will end any internal fissures and help retain top agents. In the past few months, Nick Khan, Aaron Hart, Ava Jamshidi, Nick Harris and Hal Sadoff all either left or were let go.

Of course, that doesn’t cover agents who are left in the cold. Not everyone will get to be a partner, which could engender some jealousy or anger.

Those at Wednesday’s company-wide meeting described celebration in the halls. How long that lasts is up to them.