By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
In 2005, Berg turned up the volume on merger talks with Broder’s Chris Silbermann, a fellow active Berkeley grad. Silbermann was very involved with Berkeley’s College of Letters and Sciences board, which Berg had founded and led in the late 1980s. What few understood, though, was how deep Berg’s Berkeley connection ran. He had enrolled during the campus’ turbulent ’60s free-speech and antiwar movements. The school didn’t just change him: According to his classmates, just going there created a common bond, a camaraderie. Berg told me this connection “cut through volumes. We didn’t have to go through any posturing.”
But first Berg had to pin down his war chest before his talks with Broder could proceed further. Once the $100 million was clinched, the negotiations with Silbermann accelerated over four months. The deal-in-the-works was code-named Project Beta. It was quintessential Berg. The negotiators were never in each others’ offices. Instead, they met in a still-secret outside private dining room. (The fact that they still want to use the venue strongly signals that their merger-and-acquisition plans aren’t done.) Phone traffic was run outside the agencies through lawyers and bankers.
One thing was clear from the outset: This wasn’t going to be a cheap deal. And the Broder agency wasn’t sure it wanted to give up its independence and become part of a large organization’s culture. But both sides eventually recognized the urgent need to put the companies together because of the consolidating marketplace where studios have partnered up with networks and still show biz is only a small piece of Big Media’s vertically integrated pie chart of infotainment gigantism. The final negotiations over operational issues took place between Berg and Silbermann during the mid-July Camp Allen investment confab in Sun Valley, Idaho. It happened that host Allen & Co. was brokering the deal, and its managing director, Tom Kuhn, was helping invitees Berg and Silbermann nail down the final details. The three men were sitting by the Duck Pond having lunch one day when CAA president Richard Lovett spied the trio from the other side. “Uh-oh, we’re going to blow our cover,” worried Silbermann. “Let’s invite him over to join us,” Berg suggested. So Lovett wound up being the fourth for lunch, and never knew the deal was taking place. More suspicious was William Morris CEO Jim Wiatt, who saw the three men huddling together throughout the confab and thought something might be up. He began calling Silbermann, asking to get together.
But it was too late. The deal was done on July 27, with all parties signing the papers at the offices of the law firm Irell & Manella in Century City, where the new ICM will have its new 100,000-square-foot office (that’s 25,000 more than its previous digs). Some 27 agents will be coming from Broder, but a dozen or more ICM’ers won’t be making the move because they’ve been, or are about to be, deemed dispensable. Out is Nancy Josephson, the daughter of Marvin, who put Berg in charge of the agency in the first place. She has scampered to Endeavor. (Taking her place as copresident will be Silbermann, 38.) For Berg, solving his agency’s succession issue was, for once, anything but a stealthy move.
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