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Rifkin’s London Times profile stirs agent angst

Fax machines were working overtime this past week as copies of an Aug. 3 Sunday London Times profile of the William Morris Agency’s Arnold Rifkin (complete with full-page photo) was the talk of the town. The agent got more than he bargained for when he was interviewed two weeks ago.

No one is questioning his lean, mean physique (among other revelations, the interview mentions the “tanned, taut” agent’s 12.5% body fat). Instead, his own London agents were miffed over such comments attributed to the WMA prexy as “the mentality here (the U.K.) is somewhat parochial” and “not to capture the London market and be at the forefront in Europe is beyond remiss. It is irresponsible … nobody takes advantage of the unbelievable wealth of talent here.”

Agents in the London office quickly shot off a letter to Rifkin voicing their complaints. In their missive, they said they felt that Rifkin insinuated they weren’t aggressively doing their jobs, and expressed concern over his worldwide agenda and its effect on their relationships with their clients.

Rifkin promptly sent back a letter of apology. In his letter to the agents, Rifkin stated: “I can fully understand your annoyance at some of the inferences made by this weekend’s Sunday Times feature on the William Morris Agency.

“I’m sure it would come as no surprise to you, who are more acquainted with the workings of the English media than I, that the article did not accurately represent either my comments or my sentiments. We remain absolutely committed to the principles of joint representation … and there are no foreseeable circumstances whereby we would act in such a way that would damage those relationships.

“However, I make no apology for my desire to strengthen the U.K. office of the WMA organization. I believe we can expand in Great Britain over the coming years and that the opportunities for growth lie not in poaching clients but in signing new talent … You have my personal commitment that we do not intend to actively solicit clients from yours or any other agency.”

Agents at competing tenpercenteries took particular notice of Rifkin’s comment that after he negotiated Bruce Willis’ $5 million salary for “Die Hard,” “I should have received a percentage from Schwarzenegger, Costner, Gibson and the rest for raising the stakes.”

Added Hayley Sumner, a spokeswoman for Rifkin: “Arnold’s comments were taken completely out of context and he did not mean them in any way, shape or form as a personal affront.”

Rifkin was in the U.K. visiting the Spice Girls on the set of their movie, and to find new offices for WMA. Insiders said he has homed in on space outside Piccadilly near the West End theater district.

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