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Jeff Berg’s Resolution Agency to Close

Former ICM chairman-CEO Jeff Berg has closed his talent and literary agency Resolution — less than two years after launching.

Berg, the chairman of Resolution, told his staff of about 40 on Monday that he was shuttering the agency, promised that he would help them find new jobs and blamed the closure on Chinese investor Bison Capital Holdings.

Berg had opened the agency with a flourish in January 2013 in luxurious offices in Century City and moved aggressively to hire agents, who were paid around $200,000 to $300,000, with some getting seven figure salaries.

The downfall came seven months after Resolution’s announcement in March that Beijing-based Bison had taken a stake in Resolution — the first time that a Chinese company had invested in an American talent agency.

Berg was not available for comment but insiders have said that Bison simply failed to provide the promised funding, creating an atmosphere of uncertainty at Resolution, which was already hampered by hefty start-up costs and a relative lack of TV packaging deals. No exact date has been given for the closure but the business operations will be wound down in the coming days.

Resolution’s initial investor, Jahm Najafi, opted to cease providing additional coin for Resolution before the end of last year, forcing Berg to seek funds from the Chinese investors.

Financial terms of Bison’s investment were not disclosed, but sources close to the company valued it at as high as $200 million — though others have asserted that the figure is significantly lower. Bison, run by Peixin Xu, also owns a portion of Chinese advertising agency AirMedia Group.

The deal with Bison was seen as Resolution’s way into China. David Unger was tasked with running Resolution’s China operations.

Jack Gao, the former head of News Corp China and an exec with Microsoft (China), had been the key contact between Resolution and Bison, serving as co-chair of the Resolution board. Gao was replaced by Waymond Xu.

Morale had been ebbing at Resolution this year as agents departed and took their clients with them, sparking speculation that Resolution was in peril. “Gone Girl” writer Gillian Flynn had been repped by Resolution but is now at WME.

When Resolution closed Monday, its highest-profile clients were Lindsay Lohan, Rose McGowan, Ray Winstone, Haley Joel Osment, Sarah Wayne Callies, Charlie Weber, Molly Ringwald, Michelle Yeoh, William Sadler, Stephen Dorf and Roman Polanski.

Besides Unger, the departures included Jeff Franklin, who had served as chief operating officer; Steve Alexander, who headed the film group; Dennis Kim, who was in charge of the TV literary department; Leigh Brillstein; and former CAA agents Shari Smiley, Adam Kanter and Martin Spencer.

Alexander took a job with ICM Partners and brought clients David Duchovny, Tatiana Maslany and Joy Bryant with him. Kim joined Storied Media Group as a manager.

Resolution’s initial backing came primarily from Najafi, CEO of Phoenix-based private investment Najafi Cos. since 2002.

Najafi is vice chairman of the Phoenix Suns and a governor on the board of the National Basketball Assn. In February, his firm’s Najafi Media division — a $2 billion content and consumer distribution company — invested an undisclosed sum in Paula Deen’s food, media, restaurant and merchandise empire.

 

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