Agency firms TV biz with Broder purchase

ICM has acquired boutique tenpercentery the Broder Webb Chervin Silbermann Agency, bolstering its television lit business and dramatically altering its leadership structure.

Deal reps ICM chairman/CEO Jeff Berg’s biggest move since completing a $100 million recapitalization last November. The two sides have been in talks for close to six months, making the formal announcement late Thursday.

Deal was worth a reported $70 million, though some in the agency biz say it could have been considerably less.

As part of the change, longtime ICM co-president Nancy Josephson will leave the agency, and BWCS managing partner Chris Silbermann has been named co-head of worldwide television with BWCS partner Ted Chervin.

Silbermann will also become co-president of ICM, sharing the title with Ed Limato.

“The acquisition of BWCS is the perfect example of how we intend to expand our agency throughout all core areas,” Berg said. “BWCS brings us a group of outstanding agents with impressive artists that will elevate our service for clients as the fluidity between television and film continues to increase.”

Long viewed as a well-run TV lit shingle, BWCS had been rumored to be an attractive target for merge-hungry agencies for the past year. The acquisition is also the first actual linkup of agencies in a while, after a regular run of rumors that have included just about every percentery but CAA.

“Everyone’s kicked everyone’s tires for years,” said one agent close to the deal.

The acquisition, which closes next month, instantly elevates ICM’s TV business, as BWCS brings in an impressive list of scribe talent. BWCS reps a who’s who of showrunners and exec producers, including “Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes, “Frasier” alum Chris Lloyd, “Scrubs” exec producer Bill Lawrence, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” alum Marti Noxon, and Cathy Yuspa and Josh Goldsmith, who scored two new series pickups this fall (“Big Day” and “‘Til Death”).

The merger also now gives BWCS agents and clients a chance to work with ICM’s steady roster of thesps – such as Matthew Fox, Anthony LaPaglia and Ellen DeGeneres. ICM and BWCS have worked together in the past on packages such as “According to Jim.”

Broder said the transaction would mean “greater access and a wider range of opportunities for our clients and those we expect to attract.”

Observers outside ICM said that the agency will benefit from the bench strength of the incoming agents and their clients, but they also said that the wild card will be how much Silbermann and Chervin energize the hierarchy of the agency.

ICM will accommodate the 27 agents of BWCS when the agency moves into spacious quarters in the MGM Towers in Century City early next year. As for the rest of the BWCS braintrust, founding partner Robert Broder will become ICM vice chairman, and partners Elliot Webb and Dan Donahue will be executive vice presidents.

Beyond Josephson’s departure, it’s unclear what the acquisition will mean for ICM’s existing structure. That includes vet Bob Levinson, who remains with the company for now but will no longer serve as head of worldwide TV.

How the move affects ICM’s feature film standing also remains to be seen. BWCS brings with it a handful of feature film lit agents that handle such writer/director talent as Billy Ray, Niki Caro and Randi Mayem Singer. ICM will likely try to help the BWCS TV roster step up to feature film opportunities.

The exit of Josephson is somewhat surprising, but it is believed that her exit was made easier. Josephson, who steered the “Friends” package, was one of the longtime stockholders who were able to cash in their shares once Berg brought in that outside money, meant to free up shares for the next generation of agency leaders.

Financing for the deal was provided by Rizvi Traverse and Merrill Lynch’s Global Asset Based Finance, the entities which underwrote the ICM recapitalization last fall. It’s believed that those parties produced additional funds to allow ICM to complete the BWCS acquisition.

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