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Ex-ITA exex cut deal to move to UTA

In the aftermath of the dissolution of their 4-year-old partnership in the soon-to-be-defunct InterTalent Agency, Judy Hofflund, J.J. Harris and David Schiff have cut a deal to join United Talent Agency as partners in the Beverly Hills-based operation.

Concurrently, three other agents who helped the troika run ITA’s talent department–Adam Isaacs, Patrick Whitesell and Jennifer Hageney–also have consummated agreements to move into UTA’s fold.

As reported, ITA is in the process of being disbanded after co-founding principal Bill Block opted to leave the agency he founded in Febuary 1988 with former CAA agents Hoffland and David Greenblatt to rejoin ICM in a senior management position (Daily Variety, Oct. 13).

In finalizing their deal with UTA Monday evening, signing long-term employment/shareholder contracts, Hofflund, Harris and Schiff will virtually move the entire talent division of ITA they have headed for the past four years over to their new home.

With the addition of the trio, UTA will now have 10 partners, as the former ITA team joins Marty Bauer, Peter Benedek, Jim Berkus, Gary Cosay, Robert Stein, Jeremy Zimmer and Gavin Polone.

UTA itself was formed in January 1991 with the merger of the Bauer Benedek Agency and Leading Artists.

The roster of ITA clients expected to follow the three new partners and their three associates to UTA include such actor talent as Isabella Rossellini, Mia Farrow, Mark Harmon, Robin Givens, D.B. Sweeney and Laura Dern, among others; directors Chris Menges and Bill Dear; and writers Sally Robinson, Matthew Chapman, Yves Simoneau, Michael Bortman and John Kostmayer.

The ITA team joins five key talent agents at UTA: Cynthia Shelton, Dani Sexton, Wendy Murphey, Nick Stevens and Ilene Feldman. UTA’s actor clients include Michael J. Fox, Alan Alda, Bridget Fonda, James Caan, Mike Meyers, Jason Priestley, Meg Tilly, Paul Reiser and Jason Gedrick.

UTA principal Benedek acknowledged that in addition to bringing aboard Hofflund, Harris and Schiff and consummating deals with the other three ITAtalent agents, he and his partners have had “some ongoing discussions with some of the other (ITA) agents, but nothing’s reached the critical stage.”

Benedek said there is no concern that UTA will now be too partner-heavy, comparing the infrastructure to the early days of Triad Artists.

“We’re frankly going to be structured like the large law firms, which are run by executive committees,” said Benedek, who worked as an entertainment attorney before co-founding his own talent agency.

Benedek and Bauer said they are in the process of formulating how UTA will be structured with the addition of the three new partners.

But Bauer was quick to insist, “People at this company are thrilled and think they’re a great addition–everyone feels it’s a real coup.”

Berkus believes that UTA and the new ITA partners “are a very good fit,” primarily because “we share a similar philosophy as to the way they’ve been agenting.”

Berkus compares the infrastructure of UTA with a film company like Castle Rock, which “does A pictures with A talent, but they’re really independent-minded and of a size that allows for a lot of intercommunications between partners and hands on with artists they’re involved with.”

Bauer characterizes UTA as “a mid-size, personalized, client-oriented agency” that’s an “alternative” to the bigger operations of CAA and ICM.

Hofflund says she sees no difference between the philosophical approach of ITA and UTA. “We are the same in that we are elitist, smaller, and truly an alternative agency.” She opined that while UTA “already has a strong writer- and director-based business, our list of actors makes for a formidable force.”

When asked why she felt ITA failed to keep its doors open after only four years, Hofflund insisted: “It’s because Bill Block wanted to go to ICM, that’s why it didn’t work.” She went on to claim that despite rumors to the contrary, ITA “was very lucrative financially, we were making a lot of money.”

Hofflund further noted that while “we were always excited about being in business with UTA (the two entities had previously talked merger), Bill leaving made that even more enticing.”

As for the other remaining ITA partners, which include Greenblatt and Mark Rosen (see accompanying story), and motion picture lit and TV agents, Schiff suggested: “People are doing everything possible to stay together. If ICM can accommodate more (than Block) and UTA can, it’s in everybody’s interest to keep together in spirit.”

Former UTA partners Schiff, Hofflund and Harris deny that there is any lingering animosity toward Block, although relations were reportedly less than harmonious among the partners, who are different as far as lifestyles and personalities are concerned.

“I think there was a lot of initial disappointment and we learned how much we care about each other as associates,” said Harris. “In the talent group, we found a better situation with the infusion of new blood and new people working together so we wanted to stay together as a department.”

The UTA principals said they literally closed the deal with the three ITA partners last night after 48 hours of intense negotiations. ITA’s attorney Craig Jacobson was pivotal in brokering the deal.

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