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Firm hits hard times

Talent staff laid off after Fox drops TV deal

Management-production shingle the Firm laid off the bulk of its talent department on Friday.

Remaining Firm talent managers include Rick Yorn, who serves as co-chairman of the board; Julie Silverman-Yorn, a member of the board’s executive committee; and Stacy Boniello, Joanne Colonna, Aleen Keshishian and Eli Selden.

The management-production shingle also lost its first-look deal to develop and produce series at 20th Century Fox Television. Scott Vila, who headed the Firm’s TV production division, has ankled the company.

These developments come a year after the Firm bought Mike Ovitz’s interest in Artists Management Group.

Firm co-chairman and CEO Jeff Kwatinetz once claimed that he wanted his company to be a model of multimedia synergy not unlike AOL Time Warner.

In its current configuration, however, the Firm looks like a cost-conscious boutique keen to focus on its core business.

In 2002, 20th signed the Firm for a one-year deal that included overhead as well as the option for a second year. However, the studio did not pick up the option.

The Firm maintains a TV lit department, but its leader, Rob Wolken, left the company — and the rep biz –earlier this year.

In January, the Firm fired 9% of its employees. Company said these cuts were primarily administrative and reduced the headcount from some 200 to about 180.

At the time, Firm chief operating officer David Baram told Daily Variety, “There are no plans for additional cuts” (Daily Variety, Jan. 12).

In March, the Firm took another step back from synergy with the sale of its majority stake in Pony brand footwear and apparel to Global Brand Marketing.

The Firm and GBM formed Pony Intl., under which the Firm exercises its minority interest in Pony.

On March 2 Kwatinetz said in a statement, “We understand how to reach and connect with the all important 18- to 35-year-old audience.”

However, Pony Intl. has already rejigged the Firm’s marketing strategy. A week before the GBM sale, the Firm inked a Pony promotional deal with Vivid Video, the nation’s largest maker of adult films. Just two months later, however, Pony announced that it would drop the porn pitch.

The Firm continues to provide marketing services for Pony.

The Firm maintains its feature production division, Firm Films, which is headed by Beau Flynn and has a first-look deal at New Line Cinema.

Formed in 1997, the Firm continues to rep music acts including Korn and actors including Martin Lawrence, Vin Diesel and Samuel L. Jackson.

(Michael Schneider contributed to this report.)

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