MTA reportedly is closing due to rift

Two-year-old Metropolitan Talent Agency is likely to dissolve because of ongoing internal strife among its founding partners, sources reported yesterday.

Sources said a heated dispute broke out Monday, splitting four of the Beverly Hills boutique agency’s original partners into two factions: Christopher Barrett and Bettye McCartt from the talent side facing off against Jeffrey Benson and Richard Weston from the literary division.

An insider confirmed yesterday that the partners had a “big disagreement about the direction of the agency and are now scrambling” to see which agents and clients will go with whom.

Another insider cautioned that the fate of MTA was still very much up in the air late yesterday, though a number of sources both inside and outside the agency were very skeptical that the partnership would survive.

“There’s talk that MTA will continue to be kept intact except for (TV lit agents) Benson and Weston,” one source suggested.

The five partners, who also include Joel Gotler, were holding a meeting out of the office yesterday. The partners are reportedly planning to meet with their respective attorneys this morning.

None of the partners returned calls yesterday.

There was also a rumor circulating yesterday involving MTA and Agency For The Performing Arts. One scenario was that two of the MTA partners may have favored a merger with APA, against the others’ objections.

APA topper Roger Vorce was in New York yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

An MTA insider said: “It’s not about money, it’s about egos and personalities.”

Regarding Monday’s clash, another source observed: “It’s a delicate situation and everything has exploded. Nobody knows yet what’s what or who’s going where.”

Reportedly, on Monday Barrett told his colleagues that he wanted to dissolve the partnership and move on. About 3 1/2 years ago Barrett, who is the managing partner at MTA, was reportedly instrumental in merging his and McCartt’s agency with Benson and Weston’s lit agency, Major Clients to form Barrett, Benson, McCartt and Weston.

In October 1991, MTA was formed when Gotler, a successful independent book rights agent/manager, joined the partners as a full partner and head of its motion picture department (Daily Variety, Oct. 3, 1991). Some sources said late yesterday that they thought Gotler may be planning to team up with his MTA associate Irv Schwartz.

Several sources speculated that McCartt will not continue her association with any of the four other MTA partners.

There had been rumblings of internal problems at MTA, which has approximately 15 agents in total, for some time and speculation that a split may be imminent escalated with the loss of Tom Selleck to Creative Artists Agency last fall. Selleck had been with McCartt throughout his career.

Two weeks ago, one of Metropolitan’s other major actor clients, Kirstie Alley , left and is currently shopping for a new agent. Sources said Barrett had been negotiating an overall TV and film deal at Universal for Alley.

A recent loss on the literary side was Jeff Franklin, writer-creator of “Full House,” who left to go to ICM.

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