October 19, 2011 1:25am PT by Matthew Belloni
Agency Showdown: WME-John Ferriter $25 Million Arbitration Begins
Lawyers for William Morris Endeavor and its former board member John Ferriter are in a Century City conference room Wednesday for the start of an arbitration over Ferriter’s abrupt 2009 exit from the agency
Ferriter, the longtime William Morris agent turned manager who reps such popular personalities as Piers Morgan, Dr. Drew Pinsky and X Factor host Steve Jones, sued his former employer for $25 million claiming he was marginalized by WME execs Ari Emanuel, Rick Rosen and Mark Itkin and eventually forced out of the agency. WME argues that Ferriter, the only William Morris partner to vote against the 2009 merger of the venerable agency with upstart Endeavor, left the company on his own. Here's more background on the case.
The private arbitration is scheduled to last two weeks in front of Judge Stephen Lachs. Sources tell THR that more than 100 names are on the witness list, including Ferriter, Emanuel, former WMA chief Jim Wiatt and blogger Nikki Finke, who Ferriter believes wrote negative articles about him at WME’s behest. But the planned two-week time period means only a fraction of those potential witnesses likely will testify.
The case already has featured depositions of several top WME agents and Wiatt, as well as six days of testimony by Ferriter, who is expected to be the star witness in the arbitration. Ferriter says he was pushed aside and fired despite a record of stellar performance when it became clear that he wasn’t as enthusiastic about the WME merger as his colleagues. Complicating matters, Ferriter entered the hospital days after the merger was approved and nearly died from a blood clot that led to a Penicillin-resistant MRSA infection. When he returned to the agency in July of 2009, Ferriter says he was targeted by new management for elimination.
Over the past two years of litigation, the sides have engaged in extensive document discovery. The level of secrecy around the case is so high that sources say during certain parts of the arbitration, the parties and witnesses will be asked to leave the room as certain “attorney eyes only” documents will be presented to the judge for review.
WME is repped by lead attorneys Patricia Glaser and Kerry Garvis Wright. Ferriter is repped by his sister, litigator Patricia Kramer. Attorneys for both sides declined to comment.