When the dust had settled at United Talent Agency, Nick Stevens, the 30-year-old agent who handles Jim Carrey, was named head of the talent department, and a new exec structure was implemented.
Those changes within the agency had been anticipated (Variety, Jan. 16-22).
A 9:30 a.m. meeting at UTA was held Jan. 17 to announce Stevens’ new post and other changes in the management structure, UTA spokesman Howard Bragman confirmed. All partners are staying at the agency, but not in the same capacity. No other department head changes will be made.
Sources said that instead of 10 agents running the agency, the senior management hierarchy will now be streamlined to four or five agents including Marty Bauer, Jim Berkus, Jeremy Zimmer, Peter Benedek and possibly one more.
According to one insider, “What everyone came to realize is that the agency can’t have 10 people steering the ship.”
Gavin Polone, J.J. Harris and Judy Hofflund told partners Jan. 11 that they were interested in leaving the agency. Insiders said that negotiations had already begun to take place to release them, but the trio had a change of heart.
The partners and the agents decided to work things out, and began talks that lasted over last weekend.
Polone, who reps some of the agency’s best-compensated screenwriters – heads the TV department, while Harris (whose list includes Drew Barrymore and Ellen DeGeneres) and Hofflund (counting Laura Dern and Cybill Shepherd as clients) are the only two female partners at any major talent agency.
Hofflund, who will no longer supervise the talent meetings, is likely to get additional responsibilities in senior management; other insiders speculated that Stevens may eventually be named partner. The agency had no comment.
Four months ago UTA hired a corporate psychologist, David Kruschke, to help the partners and agents deal with the problems that arose. He first worked with partners at a series of weekend retreats, and is still on retainer at the agency.
“This is a company that had tripled in size and more than doubled in revenue over the past four years; it was natural that there would be problems,” said Zimmer, who heads the literary department. “We’ve spent four months talking about these problems and trying to work out a way of being together that would make sense for everybody, and now we’ve done it.”
Stevens is the first non-partner to be named head of a department.
UTA, which handles such clients as Mark Rydell, Gary David Goldberg and David Koepp, has been succesful moving its writing clents into movies. It has also been successful helping TV stars such as Carrey, DeGeneres and David Caruso move into features. Recently signed Kelsey Grammer (“Frasier”) hopes to do the same.
Some in the industry, including those at competing agencies, are waiting to see if the recent resolution among partners and agents at UTA is permanent fix.
“Anytime anything happens, the basic attitude is, ‘It’s bound to get worse.’ That’s the basic working foundation of Hollywood. There is cynicism. I understand that attitude,” said Zimmer. “But no relationships, no company, no person stops evolving. This is the last step in this phase of evolution.”
John Brodie contributed to this report.