Press and McConnell launch talent agency

Former Innovative Artists agents Ben Press and Michael McConnell have launched boutique talent agency Fortitude — two days after suing Innovative over its allegedly illegal employment contracts.

“We have a new vision of representation that is the antithesis of our former employer’s,” Press told Daily Variety. “We chose the name because it is the perfect representation of what we stand for and how we fight for our clients. We have the relationships, the passion and access at the highest levels.”

Press and McConnell said they could not comment on their suits, filed Monday. The actions seek a court ruling that their employment contracts are illegal and unenforceable.

“We’re working on what’s ahead of us, not what’s behind us,” McConnell said.

The duo opened shop Wednesday as co-presidents in Wilshire Boulevard offices in Beverly Hills. They’re planning to add a handful of agents in coming months.

Press and McConnell also said the operation’s fully financed and pledged they’ll keep their client list limited in order to provide the most effective representation and keep overhead from becoming burdensome.

The pair have brought over notable Innovative clients including Sean Astin, Lara Flynn Boyle, Chevy Chase, Damon Dash, Cary Elwes, Gina Gershon, Lauren Holly, Master P and Romeo, Matthew Modine, Emily Rios and Cybill Shepherd.

Press joined Innovative in 2003 after working as co-head of the motion picture talent department at Paradigm. He started his career at ICM in 1991 as assistant to Ed Limato and rose to agent before joining Paradigm in 1999.

McConnell joined Innovative three years ago from IFA Talent Agency. Before joining IFA, he operated his own management and production company, MMG, for seven years.

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