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Wiatt ankles ICM

Co-chief's exit sparks concern at agency

The lazy days of summer aren’t so lazy for executives jumping ship.

In the latest high-profile management change to hit the entertainment industry this summer, International Creative Management co-chairman and co-CEO Jim Wiatt resigned from the agency Friday.

While Wiatt’s departure did not come as a complete surprise to the industry or ICM staffers, it did create a tidal wave of speculation regarding his future and the tenure of other agents at ICM.

Wiatt told Variety that he would “stay in the agency business … (and I) will be taking some meetings this weekend.”

He would not say with whom he had scheduled those meetings, although it is widely presumed that Wiatt will be talking to William Morris brass.

William Morris execs refrained from commenting about Wiatt, although none denied that they were in talks with him.

What is known is that Wiatt and co-chairman and co-CEO Jeff Berg were unable to come to terms on the financial aspects of a new contract.

And contrary to the torrent of speculation that flooded phone lines on Friday, Wiatt was not escorted from the agency. Wiatt says that he and his wife discussed the contract Thursday and that he called Berg Friday to resign. “There had been an offer on the table that was not acceptable to me,” Wiatt says.

Berg immediately sent out an e-mail informing ICM’s rank-and-file of Wiatt’s decision: “It is with great regret that I must inform you that ICM and Jim Wiatt have been unable to conclude a new agreement. As a result, Jim will be leaving the agency effective immediately. I am saddened that Jim is leaving as we come to the end of our arduous LBO and we enter into our brightest and most productive phase.”

Wiatt’s contract with ICM was due to expire Sept. 30, but the pact was negotiated on Friday and Wiatt never came into the office.

Wiatt later sent his own e-mail to staffers that read: “As you know from Jeff Berg’s e-mail, I am departing ICM. I’ve had a great career at this company and I feel as if I have made a positive contribution to its success. What made this decision most difficult is leaving my friends and colleagues. I believe ICM is an excellent company and I wish the company and all of you continued success.”

Speculation over whether Wiatt would renew his contract with ICM or leave has been circulating for months. Dur-ing that time, his name has been mentioned in relation to senior posts at the William Morris Agency, Endeavor and Creative Artists Agency. It also had been proffered that Wiatt might join an existing management company such as Artists Management Group or form his own.

While the widely respected agent denies that he has ever talked with William Morris, ICM staffers and other indus-tryites say that Morris appears to be the frontrunner for his services.

Among the clients Wiatt personally represents are Sylvester Stallone, Eddie Murphy, Tim Allen, Nora Ephron, Penny Marshall, William Friedkin and Richard Donner.

Wiatt joined ICM in 1977 and quickly rose through the ranks to head of the literary and motion picture depart-ments; he then served as president of the agency and was promoted to co-chairman and co-CEO last October.

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