Heath angling for financial freedom in U.K.

In a move to increase its packaging muscle and to meet the changing demands of the UK entertainment business, ICM U.K.’s chairman Duncan Heath is completing negotiations to reconstitute its London-based operation via a management buyout.

The buyout will allow Heath to co-finance, package and develop projects for clients as well as representing them, effectively straddling the worlds of agency, management and production.

The new British arm will continue to be called ICM U.K. but the U.S. talent agency will now retain only a minority stake.

Heath is being joined in the buyout by his senior colleagues at ICM including Lyndsey Posner.

Agents as producers

In Britain, agents are free to operate as producers and are increasingly trying to take advantage of that freedom, but ICM’s U.S. ownership has to date restricted ICM U.K. from such activity.

Though ICM U.K. had struck a deal to “advise” Catch 23 on U.K. development, and had development exec Rachel Wood work out of ICM U.K.’s offices, ICM U.K. could only be a consultant. The new company will mean they can now be an active partner in such partnerships as Catch 23.

“The new company will allow us to work harder than ever in a more realistic structure,” Heath explained. “We do not intend to operate like a Brillstein-Grey and be executive producers of projects. That is not our scenario. We can’t be both the gamekeepers and the poachers. We want to be a facilitating agency, not a producer.”

Close contact

Under the deal, expected to close in the next 60 days, the new entity will continue its ongoing affiliation with its U.S. company in co-representing more than 50 clients including such directors as Mike Newell, Martin Campbell, Danny Boyle and Jonathan Glazer and actors Ben Kingsley, Michael Caine and Rupert Everett.

ICM U.K. is currently a wholly owned subsidiary of ICM, formed when ICM bought out Heath’s former agency, Duncan Heath & Associates in 1981 and then merged it with its former UK office in 1991. ICM has had a presence in London since the early 1960s.

Heath, who has had a relationship with ICM chairman and CEO Jeff Berg for the last 18 years, has built ICM London into a formidable force in the U.K., establishing it as the dominant talent agency on the London scene.

“Our relationship with ICM London is going to be as strong and enduring as ever,” Berg said.

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