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UTA ups 5 agents

Percentery bolsters partner ranks

Enlarging its management ranks, United Talent Agency has upped Dan Aloni, Chris Harbert, John Lesher, Cynthia Shelton-Droke and Jay Sures to partners at the seven-year-old percentery.

The five thirtysomethings, all of whom have been with UTA since its inception, become principals in the agency and will take a more active role in the day-to-day management of the 60-agent firm.

They join existing partners J.J. Harris and David Schiff and board of directors Peter Benedek, Jim Berkus, Gary Cosay, Nick Stevens and Jeremy Zimmer.

While the board of directors runs the company, the newly installed partners have a say in many of the company’s management decisions.

“Each of these agents have made tremendous contributions toward the growth and success of the agency,” said Berkus, chairman of UTA. “This charts our course for the future: They’ve come up through the ranks of UTA and now are taking management roles in the agency.”

Aloni has been co-head of the motion picture literary department since 1996. He segued from investment banking at Goldman Sachs in New York in 1991 to the Bauer-Benedek agency, which later merged with Leading Artists Agency to become UTA.

Harbert, who runs the TV department with Sures, began his career in the mailroom of ICM before joining Leading Artists Agency as an agent in 1988. He was upped to co-head in 1996.

Lesher runs the motion picture lit department along with Aloni. He began his career as an agent trainee at Bauer-Benedek in 1988, was promoted to agent the following year and remained with the agency through its transformation to UTA.

Shelton-Droke, a talent agent who began her career in the William Morris Agency mailroom, joined Bauer-Benedek in 1989 as an agent. She and Harris are the only female partners at a major Hollywood agency.

And Sures, co-head of the TV department, also began his career as a trainee at Bauer-Benedek in 1989 and was promoted to agent in 1991. He and Harbert began running the TV department two years ago.

While the announcement of the agents’ promotions has been a long time coming — negotiations began last fall — their deals were finalized only last week. Viewed as a reward for a group of young agents at the forefront of UTA’s revenue-generators, the new partners’ addition bring to 12 the number of principals in the company — the largest number of partners in the agency’s history.

They also represent the first substantive change in UTA’s management structure since former president and co-chairman Marty Bauer announced his departure last October.

Since its inception, UTA has struggled with how to blend the founders’ disparate corporate cultures into a cohesive unit while fashioning an effective management structure — with numerous leadership mutations over the years.

Prior to January 1995, the percentery had 10 equal partners running the shop, but that month the management restructured, forming a committee of six, comprising Bauer (who retained his prexy title), Berkus, Cosay, Benedek, Stevens and Zimmer. The remaining five partners were Harris, Schiff, Gavin Polone, Judy Hofflund and Robert Stein. The latter three have since left the agency.

A year later Bauer stepped down from his president post and became part of a newly installed seven-member management committee. Six months later, Bauer was restored to prexy of the tenpercentery and was named co-chairman along with Berkus.

Then, last fall, Bauer stepped down from his management roles, and Berkus assumed the sole chairmanship position. Bauer left altogether last month to open his eponymous management firm.

Following its latest corporate retreat last weekend, Berkus said the agency has left behind many of the problems that plagued it over the years.

“People are working together in a more harmonious way,” he told Daily Variety. “And the unity and optimism has never been better.”

However, the goodwill surrounding the announcement came on the same day actress Renee Zellweger fired the agency. She is understood to be meeting with several other percenteries.

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