In an abrupt end to a 43-year career at ICM, Jeff Berg was edged out of ICM Partners on Friday afternoon.
The longtime percenter — who is making plans to launch a new venture focused on film sales financing, development and talent rep services — was asked to leave the agency by ICM’s new regime. Also departing Friday was Carol Bodie, a top rep in ICM’s motion picture talent department and a 25-year agency vet.
Berg’s exit comes as no surprise, as his management role at the agency was stripped last May when ICM’s top ranks completed a management buyout that turned the agency into a partner-owned entity. Bodie was not among the 29 agents who were made partners in the reorg last May that saw the insiders buy out the stake held by investment firm Rizvi Traverse Management.
Berg and Brodie were informed of the partners’ decision late Friday afternoon. In the case of Berg, sources said his departure was only a matter of time once the buyout was completed. The fact that Berg was accelerating plans to launch his new company likely hastened the decision by the ICM partners. In the case of Bodie, sources said she was unhappy at not being granted partner status and thus out of sync with the collegial culture the new regime aims to foster.
Berg indicated that he had been pursuing plans for a startup venture for some time. He’s said to have already lined up funding from a deep-pocketed, established investor with operations in media and consumer products. (No, it doesn’t appear to Haim Saban.)
Berg would not elaborate on his plan but told Variety; “It is a logical extension of the work I have done over the course of the last 40 years.”
In a statement announcing his exit, Berg said he had been “considering a different path in the agency business and will be announcing my plans very shortly.” He added: “I’ve spent my career as an owner-operator and this is the right time for me to repeat that practice. This has been a long and successful association. I am proud of what we have achieved and the opportunities that the agency can embrace.”
Berg joined ICM predecessor Creative Management Associates in 1969 as a film and literary agent. He rose to prexy of ICM (formed in 1975 by the merger of CMA and Intl. Famous Agency) in 1980 and was upped again to chairman and CEO in 1985. He recruited ICM’s current topper Chris Silbermann
through ICM’s 2006 acquisition of Broder Webb Chervin Silbermann, but in recent years the two had conflicting agendas for the agency’s future. Silbermann prevailed in the drawn-out negotiations to buy out Rizvi’s stake in the agency. Berg then turned his focus to repping clients, and in fact he’ll be in the building for another few weeks as he wraps up deals on behalf of ICM clients.
Still, one industry insider said Friday that the real surprise was that Berg chose to remain with ICM after the partner restructuring. Berg did not sign a new contract when he lost the chairman-CEO title. From Berg’s perspective, he wanted the flexibility to size up his prospects in and outside of ICM before making a commitment to stay or go.
Berg is said to be focused on crafting a small company that focuses in large part on securing capital and providing advisory services for talent to pursue opportunities in film, TV, music, publishing and legit. Undoubtedly, there is demand in the studio and indie film biz for players who can bring capital to the table. Berg is known for his skill in assembling complex financial transactions for clients over the years including Mel Gibson and Roman Polanski.
Bodie most recently was part of a team that repped such thesps as Jon Hamm, Calista Flockhart, Jada Pinkett Smith and Kim Cattrall.