Tenpercentery threatens Gotham paper
William Morris is fighting back.After suffering more than a month’s worth of barbs from the New York Post — over what the paper called a “mass exodus” of clients and its recent claim that the agency had financial problems — WMA has hired lawyer Bert Fields to demand that the tabloid run a retraction on the grounds of libel. Fields sent a letter to the Post on Tuesday, and a copy was obtained by Daily Variety. Fields said in an interview that beyond a retraction from the Post, he wants to uncover the source of the allegations — whom he contends is associated with another agency. “I have a good idea who it was that put the Post up to spreading this vicious load of garbage,” Fields said. “When I can make a positive identification, that amoral snake is going to be sorrier than the Post.” Fields’ letter specifically addresses a Page Six item that ran Sunday. The gossip column asserted that the “beleaguered” agency was holding an “emergency meeting” over the weekend at the Shutters on the Beach hotel in Santa Monica in order to “stop the bleeding at the troubled tenpercentery.” It went on to say that sources said WMA was so financially desperate it “may be planning to sell its storied Beverly Hills headquarters to raise cash.” “This is a very damaging thing to say,” Fields said. “That an agency is financially unsound and is selling their building — that’s extraordinarily vicious.” In the letter, Field called the emergency meeting claim “utterly false in every respect,” saying that the meeting — which took place Monday — was actually a retreat for the agency’s motion picture department — “a normal and customary corporate practice.” The letter went on: “The agency is not ‘beleaguered.’ This is not an ’emergency meeting,’ and it has nothing to do with stopping any ‘bleeding.’ ” As for the sale of WMA’s digs, Fields called the claim “demonstrably false.” “The agency is not selling its headquarters, and it has no need to ‘raise cash,’ ” he wrote. “The agency is not in any kind of financial distress.” In fact, WMA is preparing to renovate its storied headquarters and has been looking at various buildings — including space in the MGM tower in Century City — but says it has no intention of selling its three buildings on William Morris Place. Fields’ letter also addressed the Post’s comment that, in addition to the recent exit of WMA agents Michelle Bohan and Todd Feldman, George Freeman was now “rumored to be headed for the door.” “He has no intention of doing so,” Fields wrote. Although WMA was quoted denying the allegations in the Post story, Fields said a written refutation did not keep the piece from being libelous and demanded that the tabloid “retract at least the false assertions I have described and to do so immediately.” William Morris confirmed that the letter was sent but had no comment. Sunday’s Page Six item was the latest in a slew of Post articles and gossip items chronicling the aftermath of the New Yorker’s profile of WMA agent David Wirtschafter, in which the agent spoke candidly, by Hollywood standards, about his clients and disclosed details about their salaries. His then-clients Halle Berry and Sarah Michelle Gellar left the agency. In the weeks following the article, WMA agents Feldman and Bohan also departed — to CAA and Endeavor, respectively — and WMA vet Steve Dontanville retired, causing Reese Witherspoon to leave with him. The Post also wrote that Lucy Liu and helmer Matthew Vaughn left WMA in connection with the New Yorker piece. Liu left the agency before the piece ran (the Post ran a correction), and Vaughn is said to have gone to Endeavor for other reasons. The paper was not the only media outlet to weigh in on the defections. A phone call to the Post was not returned by deadline.