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Block bound for ICM

After weeks of denials and rumors, InterTalent Agency topper Bill Block is close to striking a deal to rejoin International Creative Management–the agency he ankled four years ago to help launch his mid-sized outfit with two former CAA agents.

Block called a meeting of all ITA assistants yesterday to apprise them of his plans. But his expected deal to head ICM’s motion picture department was still not consummated by late yesterday. It is widely speculated inside and outside ITA that an announcement is imminent that Block and his five partners will disband the agency.

By late yesterday, the future of Block’s partners–talent agents Judy Hofflund, David Schiff and J.J. Harris and TV agents David Greenblatt and Mark Rosen–was still uncertain.

“Everything is topsy-turvy,” said one ITA insider late yesterday, noting, “Anything can happen at this point.”

According to one source, the partners met about a week ago to discuss dissolving the agency.

It is being speculated that Greenblatt, Rosen and other ITA literary and TV agents, including Tom Strickler, Chris Moore and Ariel Emanuel, will also be made offers by ICM. While Greenblatt primarily handles TV clients, he also represents one of Hollywood’s hot young screenwriters, Shane Black (“Lethal Weapon”).

At the same time, various sources confirmed that Hofflund, Schiff and Harris are in serious discussions with United Talent Agency and are attempting to hammer out a deal to move there with their roster of clients, including Laura Dern, Cybill Shepherd, Jason Patric, Dolph Lundgren, Virginia Madsen, Alan Rickman, Max Van Sydow, Kyle MacLachlan, Madeleine Stowe, Drew Barrymore, Scott Bakula, Bill Pullman, Juliette Binoche, Samantha Mathis, Nancy Travis, Sting and Andrew Shue.

Insiders say UTA principals, including Marty Bauer and Peter Benedek, are being extremely aggressive in their efforts to lure the trio of ITA partners and their respective clients to their Beverly Hills digs. Bauer and Benedek refused to comment on the matter.

Sources also confirmed, however, that Schiff and Hofflund have met with exex at the William Morris Agency and have talked with other agencies in town and no deal had yet been sealed.

Once Block finalizes his deal at ICM, he is expected to become head of the agency’s motion picture department, though a title reportedly has not yet been decided.

Operational heads of ICM in L.A. are chairman Jeff Berg and prexy Jim Wiatt. Co-founding senior partners Sam Cohn and Marvin Josephson headquarter in New York. The partners took the company private in a management buyout in 1988.

Block’s personal clients include actors Charlie Sheen, Andrew Dice Clay and Ken Wahl and directors Randa Haines, Roger Spottiswoode, Sam Raimi, Chris Menges , Russell Mulcahy, John Waters and Roland Emmerich.

In assuming the new ICM post, Block will return to the agency from which he defected in February 1988 to form ITA with former CAA agents Hofflund and Greenblatt.

A number of sources indicated that Block’s impending departure did not sit well with some of his partners and many ITA staffers. “Some people here are very upset because Bill did this without conferring with everybody else in the agency and some feel he’s sold them down the river.”

Industry insiders speculated that the ambitious Block is opting out because he wants a stronger power base from which to operate than the mid-sized ITA could provide him.

The partners deny rumors that ITA has had financial problems.

But a number of people agree that Block may have attempted to expand ITA too fast rather than keeping it a mid-sized boutique agency.

“It’s a large medium agency with a lot of overhead and no cash-cow business, like TV packaging or music, that would have kept them from closing their doors,” observed an agent from a competing agency.

“The world turned on him when we went into this recession,” said another rival.

“The basis of an agency’s business in order for them to survive is cash flow, which comes about by having clients in weekly series, and in the film business clients not just having up-front cash but meaningful points on the backend–getting gross from the first dollar,” suggested one prominent Hollywood talent agent.

All of the major agencies, including ICM, CAA and William Morris, have an asset base to build on via first-dollar-gross clients, diversified businesses and in the case of Morris, valuable real estate.

ITA had attempted to expand its music business earlier this year by forming an association with Ian Copeland’s Frontier Booking Intl. But the relationship was short-lived, ending this month with potential litigation lingering around the parties (Daily Variety, Oct. 5).

While ICM has a sturdy A list of motion picture directors and talent, including stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts and filmmakers James Cameron and Bernardo Bertolucci, its leaders want to further expand the agency’s foothold to become even more competitive with arch-rival CAA.

As announced this summer (Daily Variety, June 11), ICM plans to move its headquarters to much larger, more elaborate offices on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills in February after being housed in a more modest office on Beverly Boulevard for the past 23 years.

Sources at ICM say the agency will be looking to Block to galvanize the troops.

One ICM insider suggested: “It gives ICM a good shot in the arm. Bill’s a good general. He’ll map out a plan and give ICM a chance to utilize his managerial skills. It’s just too bad because it means that a smaller agency doesn’t work.”

Another ICM agent willing to talk off the record said, “Bill will be an interesting addition here. Among all the power agents here, there isn’t one vote of dissension about him coming over–that’s important that he isn’t going to offend anyone here.”

One other rival agent offered: “ICM’s agenda is to beat CAA … (Berg’s) mandate to Bill will be to try to gather together a group of lone ranger agents and give them the same kind of focus (CAA head Mike) Ovitz gives his group. The key to any successful agency is teamwork starting from the top.”

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