×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Variety’s Business Managers Elite Honoree Bill Tanner Looks Back, and Ahead

As Hollywood business managers go, Bill Tanner of Tanner, Mainstain, Glynn & Johnson is one the most respected, with an impressive list of loyal big-name clients that includes Michael Keaton (“Birdman”) and Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing,” Broadway’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”).

Tanner, also known for his real estate and equity investment skills, is Variety’s 2019 recipient of the Business Managers Elite Award, given each year to a business manager for a commitment to philanthropy and to giving back. Tanner will receive the award at a breakfast Nov. 13 at the Montage Beverly Hills.

Tanner is a longtime board member of the UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation. He started off on its auditing committee, double-checking its financial statements, and in recent years he’s taken an active role on the fundraising committee.

“It’s not easy to ask clients to give to your charity, because they all have their own charities,” says Tanner. “But in the past, my clients have given, and once they start, it’s a recurring contribution. My job is also to talk to clients when they do their estate plans and, if there’s money left over, ask that maybe they put the Jonsson Cancer Foundation in there.”

Tanner and the firm are also active sponsors of the Jewish National Fund and the Alliance for Children’s Rights, and he promotes and supports employee volunteerism and charity initiatives, giving employees time and resources to invest in their chosen charities. He also provides free advice and mentoring to friends and acquaintances on how to properly invest, save and build net worth.

“Obviously, he’s a smart guy,” says his longtime professional partner, Peter Mainstain. “But one of the secrets to his success is his ability to lighten up a room, to make people smile and feel good. He’s got great, long-term friends at different levels — people from school, people from personal relationships — and he’s close with many of his clients. I keep saying, and I mean it, that when I grow up I want to be like Bill.”

A Los Angeles native, Tanner started his career in accounting in 1965 and passed the CPA exam in 1971. In the late ’60s and early ’70s, he worked at an accounting firm that handled Las Vegas hotels, and would spend several weeks out of each month in Sin City auditing the book of the Dunes, the Flamingo and the Horseshoe.

“I was there during ‘the days.’ That’s all I say,” says Tanner, cryptically. “It was before the corporations were involved.”

Mainstain had worked at the same accounting firm and they had played together in three-on-three nighttime pickup basketball games at Hamilton High in West L.A. One fateful day in 1975, they ran into each other on Wilshire Boulevard. By that time, Tanner was on his own, handling tax work fed to him by a UCLA frat brother at the law firm Loeb & Loeb. He thought if he had some help, he might be able to go skiing during tax season, so he invited Mainstain to join him.

“I call that our living together year,” recalls Mainstain. “Bill had an office in one of these executive office suites, and I rented a space there. And the end of that year, we decided, yeah, this is going to work. So in terms of corporate governance records, our firm began officially on June 30, 1976.”

Tanner’s first business management client was writer-producer Tom Patchett (“The Bob Newhart Show,” “Alf”), whose tax returns he did for $75 a year when he had his CPA practice. Years later, Patchett – who remains a client to this day – was writing and producing the Mary Tyler Moore variety show “Mary” (1978) with his then-partner Jay Tarses, and he recommended Tanner’s services to one of its ensemble cast members, Keaton.

Similarly, Tanner has handled Sorkin since the late ’80s, when his play “A Few Good Men” was on Broadway, and “Frasier” creators Peter Casey and David Lee since they were staff writers on “The Golden Girls.”

“One of the reasons our firm has been so successful is the loyalty of the clients,” says Tanner. “In this business, where entertainers switch attorneys, agents and managers so often, they have stayed with us from the beginning.”

Tanner says that, while he doesn’t plan on ever retiring, he may “ease off a little” starting in January. “I plan on letting my partners take over and do a lot of the work I used to do. I will always continue helping them with the real estate, the estate planning and the equities, but in terms of the actual tax work. … I don’t plan on doing another tax return again.”

More Biz

  • Pete Frates, who is stricken with

    Pete Frates, Inspiration for The Ice Bucket Challenge, Dies at 34

    Pete Frates, the inspiration behind 2014’s wildly successful ALS movement, the Ice Bucket Challenge, died on Monday. He was 34.  The historic Ice Bucket campaign raised over $115 million to combat ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, which Frates also suffered from.  “Pete never complained about his illness,” his family said in a statement.  “Instead, he [...]

  • CBS HEADQUARTERS

    ViacomCBS Will Explore Sale of Black Rock CBS Headquarters

    ViacomCBS will explore the sale of the famous Black Rock building, which has served as the headquarters of CBS since the mid 1960s. Bob Bakish, CEO of the company, which was created last week from the merger of CBS Corp. and Viacom Inc., said the newly combined entertainment conglomerate would explore the sale of sundry [...]

  • The recipients of the 42nd Annual

    Heartfelt Tributes Trump Politics at Kennedy Center Honors

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — Political chatter was kept to a minimum Sunday night as the Kennedy Center Honors presented elaborate tributes to “Sesame Street” — made more poignant by the death of legendary puppeteer Caroll Spinney earlier in the day — as well as Sally Field, Linda Ronstadt, Earth, Wind and Fire and conductor Michael Tilson [...]

  • Chris Cornell’s Widow Sues Soundgarden

    Chris Cornell’s Widow Sues Soundgarden Over Royalties, Unreleased Recordings

    A long-simmering battle between Chris Cornell’s widow and the other members of Soundgarden broke into the open Monday morning when Vicky Cornell announced that she is suing the group over hundreds of thousands of dollars in allegedly unpaid royalties and the rights to seven unreleased recordings made before the singer’s death in May of 2017. [...]

  • Stephen Colbert Julia Louis-Dreyfus

    Julia Louis-Dreyfus Talks 'Seinfeld,' 'Sexist' Environment at 'SNL' in Q&A With Stephen Colbert

    Stephen Colbert and Julia Louis-Dreyfus swapped stories about “Saturday Night Live,” Northwestern University, “Seinfeld” and the possibility of running for office during a Q&A held Saturday as part of Montclair Film Festival’s annual “Evening with Stephen Colbert” fundraiser. Colbert, a Montclair resident, has long been a booster of the festival, which is going into its [...]

  • 2019 Kennedy Center Honoree singer Linda

    Linda Ronstadt to Mike Pompeo: Stop 'Enabling' Donald Trump

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — Linda Ronstadt, one of this year’s Kennedy Center Honorees, had sharp words for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday night during a State Department reception for the Kennedy Center kudos. Ronstadt and Pompeo faced off in the U.S. State Department’s ornate diplomatic greeting rooms at the traditional event that precedes Sunday’s [...]

  • pharrell brain child show

    'Blurred Lines' Flares Up Again - Marvin Gaye Family Claims Pharrell Perjured Himself

    Like a zombie that just won’t stay dead, the “Blurred Lines” case keeps coming back. While the 2015 verdict, in which Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke and the song’s publisher were ordered to pay nearly $5 million to Marvin Gaye’s family for infringing upon the late singer’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up,” was basically [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content