ICM: Silbermann Offer to Buy Out Rizvi Expires But Negotiations Continue

Chris Silbermann
Chris Silbermann
 David Livingston/Getty Images

About three weeks ago, ICM president Chris Silbermann presented an offer to buy out at least part of financier Suhail Rizvi’s majority interest in the agency, but that offer has now expired, according to a knowledgeable source. However, Silbermann’s effort to amass a controlling interest in the Century City-based talent agency continues, and on Wednesday he met with Rizvi in New York to continue discussions, according to another source with knowledge of the dealings.

Silbermann and colleagues Bob Broder and Ted Chervin are said to be frustrated with Rizvi, who appears to be disinterested in Silbermann's stated plan to transform the agency into a partnership. The trio is said to bristle at a corporate structure that essentially makes them employees of Rizvi, whose Birmingham, Mich.-based Rizvi Traverse Management acquired a controlling interest in ICM in 2005.

While many industry players have expected Silbermann and his former partners at boutique agency Broder Webb Chervin Silbermann to leave the 36-year old ICM to form a new agency, sources say that Silbermann is more interested in staying and building ICM rather than starting a new company.

But the situation is still very fluid, and sources say other possible outcomes include the renegotiation of the ICM principals' current deals; the acquisition of ICM by a rival talent agency; and the departure of Silbermann, ICM chairman Jeff Berg or others.

Rizvi Traverse and ICM declined to comment.

The cost of reducing the stake held by Rizvi -- a press-shy private equity investor whose firm also holds interests in Twitter, Facebook and Summit Entertainment -- is not entirely clear, nor is it known what financing is backing Silbermann's bid.

In November 2005, Rizvi Traverse made a $75 million investment in Century City-based ICM, and Merrill Lynch provided additional debt financing for a total of about $100 million. A knowledgeable source says that Rizvi has already wrung a profit out of his firm’s investment in ICM, and Merrill Lynch has been bought of out the deal. Silbermann would not necessarily need to acquire Rizvi Traverse’s entire stake in the agency in order to gain control and implement his partnership plans; an April Bloomberg report said Berg, Silbermann and some agents hold ICM stock.

The Hollywood Reporter reported Nov. 15 that Rizvi, who resides in Greenwich, Conn., has grown less interested in the long-term future of ICM after concluding that the agency won't provide him the platform to make a larger impact as an investor in media. He is said to be quietly shopping his interest in the agency, according to a knowledgeable source.

Silbermann joined ICM in July 2006, when the agency acquired his company, Broder Webb Chervin Silbermann, for about $70 million. Silbermann's group is a powerhouse in the lucrative television packaging industry, with clients including Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes and comedy kingpin Chuck Lorre.The Silbermann group is said to supply ICM with a significant share of its total revenue. 

In a May interview with THR, Silbermann discussed his desire to convert the agency to a partnership, saying: “I believe that agents should be able to reap what they sow. Since the time I joined ICM, the plan has been to evolve the company into the best possible structure for the clients and the agents, one that rewards success.”

Complicating matters is Silbermann’s frosty relationship with Berg. Sources say one option on the table is for Silbermann and Co. -- or even Rizvi -- to purchase Berg's stake in the agency. However, the cost to buy out Berg is believed to be high: a knowledgeable source says Berg’s share of the company is valued in the range of $20 million to $30 million.

Email: Daniel.Miller@THR.com; Kim.Masters@THR.com

Twitter: @DanielNMiller; @KimMasters

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