This article was updated at 6:34 p.m.
Integrated Entertainment Partners, a branded-entertainment consultancy run by former Disney Studios prexy Rich Frank, has merged into the Firm, with Frank becoming chairman of the talent-management company.
Move is expected to increase considerably the Firm’s and dealmaking efforts in the growing branded-entertainment and integrated marketing arenas, adding to its ranks execs well known among decisionmakers on Madison Avenue and in Hollywood.
Company could become a larger rival to Hollywood’s major tenpercenteries, who long have run corporate advisory groups that advise brand-name companies looking to use entertainment to appeal to consumers.
Firm founder Jeff Kwatinetz will continue as CEO as well as co-chairman along with partner Rick Yorn. Firm board member Julie Yorn will head film and TV production shingle Firm Films.
Financial terms of the merger, which has been in the works for several weeks, were not disclosed. However, Kwatinetz will continue to retain a majority stake after the transaction.
IEP will consolidate its Beverly Hills offices into those of the Firm.
“Rich’s leadership ability and talent for broad strategic thinking has been well documented,” Kwatinetz and Rick Yorn said in a joint statement. “The ability to tap into Rich’s superior experience and his keen understanding of the international entertainment marketplace will prove to be an incredible asset as the Firm continues to evolve into a global media company.”
Frank noted he has known Kwatinetz for 20 years.
Frank becomes one of the few studio execs to transition into the talent management biz. But though Frank will help run the Firm, he won’t be heavily involved with repping clients.
Developing a talent
“I’m not going to run out there and be a signer,” he said. “I’m sure that will happen, but that’s not why I came over here.”
Frank’s posts at the Mouse House include not only prexy of Walt Disney Studios, but chairman of Walt Disney Television and Telecommunications and topper at its Buena Vista syndication arm. He also was prexy of the Paramount Television Group and Chris Craft Television. Before founding IEP last year, Frank was chair of the former Comcast content division C3.
Kwatinetz founded the Firm in 1997 and quickly grew the company into a music management powerhouse. He morphed the outfit into a broader entertainment representation company with the 2002 acquisition of Artists Management Group from Michael Ovitz and Rick Yorn, with the former ankling and the latter staying.
Along the way, Kwatinetz and other execs at the Firm developed a keen interest in brand exploitation to create business opportunities for its stable of clients and the company.
Firm clients include Leonardo DiCaprio, Ice Cube, Cameron Diaz, Vin Diesel, Orlando Bloom, Martin Scorsese, Snoop Dogg and bands Korn, Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park.
Its licensing and other entertainment relationships, which have aimed to tap into the lucrative youth demographic, include deals with companies such as Pony and Virgin.
“There is a broad hunger by the advertising community to get their message across though media, especially to 18- to 24-year-olds,” Kwatinetz said. “Advertisers have big checkbooks but don’t know how to reach people anymore. They have so much money and are spending so much money and getting less for it. We want to put them together with talent to reach the consumers they want to reach.”
The Firm has long been looking to increase its branded entertainment biz. IEP’s execs are expected to help drive that business.
“There’s excitement here,” Kwatinetz said. “We want to be at the center of this so-called Madison and Vine coming together. But we want to make sure that intersection does not abuse our clients and that our clients benefit from that. Artists should have more control of the process.”
Since its formation last year with the help of entertainment attorney Skip Brittenham, IEP’s three core staffers had been working on brokering product placement and promotional partnerships for such studio pics as New Line’s “After the Sunset,” Paramount’s “Sahara” and Regency’s “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” as well as the NBC drama “Las Vegas.” Company worked closely with studios and producers to integrate consumer brands of cars, soft drinks and clothing into productions, making products central to a pic’s plot.
IEP was forced to expand, however, aiding brands looking for a variety of entertainment opportunities. But IEP couldn’t keep up with demand, given its small size and resources.
Need to grow
“The brands we were working with wanted to talk to talent, and we were missing the closeness to talent that the Firm allows us to have,” Frank said. “We were too small to handle it.”
IEP principal Mitch Kanner — who has consulted for ad agencies Omnicom, WPP and Ogilvy & Mather, as well as Motorola and others — will head up the Firm’s branding division, working with Firm prexy and chief operating officer Dave Baram.
Also, IEP’s Christopher Gebhart will join the Firm in an integrated marketing position, working closely with existing marketing staff. Before IEP, Gebhardt worked at ad powerhouse Ogilvy & Mather as senior partner and exec director of emerging technology and innovation.
“The Firm-IEP merger is the nexus of the intersection of talent, creative and strategic marketing expertise, bringing the notion of Madison and Vine into reality,” said Kanner. “This merger offers a unique dialogue with the most important creative talent and influencers in the world.”