The Ziffren Brittenham Five
(Ken Ziffren, Harry (Skip) Brittenham, Sam Fischer, Clifford Gilbert-Lurie, Melanie Cook)

Hollywood Law Impact Report

Firm: Ziffren Brittenham Branca Fischer Gilbert-Lurie Stiffelman Cook Johnson Lande & Wolf

The practice: Widely viewed as the most powerful entertainment firm in the country, Ziffren Brittenham not only boasts a spectacular client list on the talent side, it also is the law firm of choice for companies seeking cutting-edge deals.

“When I walk around the halls and hear about the kind of work my partners are doing, my jaw just drops,” Cook says. “Even I’m doing some of the multiple-source financing deals now.”

Cook is a relative newcomer, joining the firm in 2002. However, as the best-known female dealmaker in town, she brought with her Keanu Reeves, Barry Sonnenfeld, Scott Rudin, Sam Mendes, Christina Ricci, Tim Burton and Mimi Leder. With clients Julie Taymor and Winnie Holzman, who wrote the book for “Wicked,” Cook has also carved out a significant theater practice.

Brittenham, the firm’s co-founder, also has a stellar talent practice, representing Tom Hanks, Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis, Eddie Murphy, Tim Allen and Ridley and Tony Scott. But it’s in the corporate arena that he really shines, having put together billions of dollars worth of deals.

He represented Pixar in its acquisition by Disney; for DreamWorks, he engineered the spinoff of the animation arm as a public company, as well as the sale of the live-action division to Paramount. He put together Working Title’s new deal at Universal.

Founding partner Ziffren, a pioneer in the TV syndication biz, today is the elder statesman of the entertainment bar and is frequently called in to mediate labor disputes and counsel corporate clients.

Repping the next generation of firm leadership, managing partner Fischer and Gilbert-Lurie have their own extraordinary list of film and television clients including Sacha Baron Cohen, Steve Carell, Judd Apatow, writer Greg Daniels, Felicity Huffman, Matt Damon and Wes Craven.

Among the highlights of the past year, Fischer cites the phenomenal rise of Baron Cohen; Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun’s deal with NBC; and successful negotiations on behalf of James Brooks on “The Simpsons” and for Simon Cowell.

Gilbert-Lurie’s clients include Sandra Bullock, Claire Danes, Tina Fey, Tony Shalhoub, Sarah Silverman and Dick Wolf.

POV: “TV deals are more complicated and harder to make because of the shifting of revenues from networks to other outlets,” Fischer notes. “On the film side, the number of films is the same, but fewer of them are studio films.”

See the Hollywood law impact list.

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