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Jeff Berg's Resolution Sued by Ex-Agent

Former employee Martin Beck says the new firm is "cash-strapped" after attempting a strategy to lure ICM staffers and poach clients.

Jeff Berg
Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images
Jeff Berg

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in L.A. Superior Court, talent agent Martin Beck accuses Jeff Berg's Resolution Entertainment of treating him unfairly during a month of employment at the new agency, eventually firing him. The lawsuit suggests that Beck's hiring was all part of a plot to take agents away from ICM Partners and poach clients.

Beck has been working in the business for more than 50 years, spending three decades at ICM before joining Resolution in July. At the new agency, Beck continued to work under Berg, who himself spent decades at ICM, climbing the ladder to eventually become its chief executive. After being with ICM since its founding in 1975, Berg departed amid internal disputes, and now, Beck is accusing his former leader of being up to no good and leading his new agency into a tough financial spot.

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"Berg used his knowledge of ICM in an attempt to lure away the agency's clients and agents," says the lawsuit. "Berg's plan was to garner a roster of agents (including former ICM agents) by outbidding their contracts. This strategy worked to some degree in the short-term. … The downside of this strategy was that Resolution was left with a hefty payroll and no cash flow."

The lawsuit brings up Berg's interview with THR that Resolution had more than $200 million in financial backing, but the lawsuit says "the company is now cash-strapped and unable to maintain its enormous payroll."

That's where Beck allegedly comes in.

His lawsuit presents him as an agent who handled booking for casinos for decades. One of his largest clients from ICM was Frankie Valli, said to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in commissions per year, due in part to the success of Jersey Boys.

"Berg was quite familiar with Valli," says the lawsuit. "Berg negotiated the film rights for Jersey Boys while at ICM. Before Resolution solicited Plaintiff to work at the agency, Plaintiff is informed and believes that Resolution unsuccessfully tried to sign away Valli from ICM directly."

STORY: Jeff Berg Departs ICM Partners

In June, Beck says he met Resolution's Jeff Franklin and was offered a two-year employment contract with an annual salary of $175,000. Beck said that he needed some accommodations for his medical problems, and according to the complaint, he was told he could work from home when necessary. There was some negotiation over whether Beck would be able to travel in first class on flights and the lawsuit says that the parties reached a compromise to allocate $10,000 of his salary to such costs.

According to the complaint, "On June 21, 2013, Franklin emailed Plaintiff a message as an SMS text that read 'Contract is being done with new amt. We have a deal as u know my word is my bond!' "

Beck says he began work on July 8 but was not given a copy of his final employment agreement.

Berg, Franklin and others are then said to have "quickly tried to get Valli to sign with Resolution again. Resolution's efforts failed miserably, in part, because Plaintiff was left out of the loop."

The relationship deteriorated quickly. Beck said he experienced a flare-up of pain and needed to work from home. "Resolution began a campaign to harass Plaintiff," says the complaint. "Resolution began sending Plaintiff emails alleging that he was not working and setting artificially short deadlines for Plaintiff to respond. Plaintiff indicated that he could not respond based on the arbitrary deadlines imposed by Resolution because of his medical conditions and because of his doctors' appointments."

His employment was terminated on Aug. 2, says the complaint.

Beck is now demanding money on allegations of a breach of oral contract, disability discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination, fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Resolution said it would decline comment about pending litigation.

E-mail: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com
Twitter: @eriqgardner