ICM Partners is dropping the head of its digital division in order to reboot it under new leadership with a more ambitious mandate.
George Ruiz has been replaced with new hire Keyvan Peymani, VP of direct-to-consumer business planning and operations at Warner Bros.
Peymani, ICM announced Monday, will launch a new division that will focus more on making investments in digital ventures, according to sources, an area that has been an emerging category of interest for other talent agencies like CAA, UTA and WME.
ICM is also expected to make an additional hire to bolster its plans for this space.
Peymani has been an active player in WB’s innovative efforts in digital distribution of films, from its experimentation with the unprecedented release of “The Dark Knight” on Facebook to the studio’s acquisition of Flixster.
In Peymani, ICM is bringing in an exec with the kind of Silicon Valley ties necessary to sink deeper roots in a region poised to play a crucial role in Hollywood’s future. While Ruiz built up a talent roster of familiar names to the YouTube generation, mining that subculture likely did little to boost ICM’s overall business given the small paydays currently on digital platforms.
Ruiz was pushed out of the agency, according to sources, but is expected to continue managing the digital-centric clients he brought in at ICM. Ruiz hinted via his Twitter account Monday morning that he is about to start a new venture but wouldn’t elaborate on future plans.
Ruiz was head of new media and senior VP of business affairs at ICM, where he’s been since 2007 after stints at Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Studios. He has been a leading proponent of original programming on digital platforms, with clients including online celebrities like Felicia Day, for whom he scored a cross-platform deal with Microsoft for her series “The Guild” in 2008.
In addition, Ruiz reps Dane Boedigheimer, the creator of Internet sensation “The Annoying Orange,” which will become a TV property via Cartoon Network later this month.
Ruiz is the latest departure at ICM, which has seen a string of high-profile defections in a turbulent year for the agency. But the digital expansion plans are a sign the agency is charting its future course with the completion of a management buyout last month that left former owner Rizvi Traverse on the sidelines.
ICM will likely make moves similar to what its rival agencies have been up to in recent years, investing and/or incubating in digital-minded startups that, in success, could reap rewards far greater than the representation biz that has been tenpercenters’ traditional specialty. Last month, WME sold a noncontrolling stake in its business to tech firm Silver Lake in the interest of finding investment opportunities in the sector. WME has already provided financing for a number of new ventures including Airtime, a social-video company that will launch Tuesday under the leadership of Napster co-founders Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning.
“ICM Partners represents the leaders in the creation of entertainment, and with the revolutions in social and digital media, the rise of new technologies and the growing partnerships between Silicon Valley and Hollywood, I am excited to leverage the agency’s assets in all areas of business to further strengthen its presence in the digital space,” Peymani said.