Co-founder's exit leaves co. on shaky ground

In what means the end of the road for the Firm, Jeff Kwatinetz resigned late Thursday from the management/production company he founded in 1997.

Kwatinetz told colleagues that he was leaving because in his mind, the company “was an embodiment of Rick Yorn, Dave Baram and myself,” a source said.

Yorn and ex-sister-in-law Julie Yorn exited Oct., 19 to form a new venture. Since then, prexy-chief operating officer Baram left the Firm to join the Yorns, as did Jennifer Killoran and merchandising exec and Snoop Dogg manager Constance Schwartz.

Kwatinetz could not be reached for comment, but he will split off and form his own entertainment company, taking an unspecified number of the remaining employees with him. Like the Firm, the new company will focus on music, TV and film management as well as production. Kwatinetz will continue to rep such music clients as Korn, Jane’s Addiction and Ice Cube.

What remained when Kwatinetz walked out the door of the Firm’s Wilshire Boulevard HQ on Thursday is unclear.

In all likelihood, it spells the end of a company that once seemed to have all the pieces to emerge as a powerhouse that could pollinate production and merchandising and branding opportunity with star management clients. Kwatinetz grew the Firm initially with a music business core, but the breadth of the company expanded dramatically when Kwatinetz acquired Artists Management Group in 2002 for a reported $12.7 million, as Michael Ovitz left that management venture.

The Yorns and other AMG clients joined Kwatinetz, bringing such star movie clients as Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese, Cameron Diaz and Vin Diesel. The company grew again in 2004, when it merged with an entertainment marketing company run by Rich Frank, the former Walt Disney Studios president.

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