The 25 Most Powerful Business Managers 2016

6:40 AM 9/28/2016

by THR staff

THR's sixth annual list reveals Hollywood's most trusted moneymen and women looking after the cast and investments of the industry's stars (and not letting them fly private).

Harley Neuman Lou Taylor and Michael Kaplan - Split - H - 2016

 Reported and written by Joe Bel Bruno, Paul Bond, Ashley Cullins, Eriq Gardner, Natalie Jarvey and Georg Szalai.

  • Howard Altman and Warren Grant

    (Pictured: Warren Grant)

    You won't find a website for this firm for one simple reason: The managers don't market themselves. "We're sort of old-school and believe if we do a good job, we'll get referrals," says Altman. The firm's "financial therapists" (as Grant puts it) also make a point not to discuss who their clients are, but over the years, some names have become public: Dwayne Johnson, Tom Hanks and Jeff Robinov, to name a few. "It's getting more and more difficult to find good investments for the clients, but we're focusing a lot on real estate and doing very well," says Grant. "I have one client in the tech business who has 15 homes."

    The worst purchase you ever made?
    Altman: "A pet rock in 1975."

  • Jeff Bacon and Steve Savitsky

    (Pictured: Jeff Bacon)

    "If a client is invested in the stock market and the market drops 20 percent, we don't get a call — but if someone in the business management community is named in a lawsuit, your phone rings off the hook," says Savitsky of recent scandals involving business managers for Shannen Doherty and Alanis Morissette. "It just makes people nervous." Savitsky and Bacon say clients are responding by paying closer attention to their finances. While the bulk of their business still is Hollywood-centered, Bacon, a former Boston-area sportscaster, says he's excited to see the firm's sports clients grow: "We got our first couple of clients from being part of the entertainment side of their lives, and it evolved into handling everything else."

  • Evan Bell

    Bell says he likes to sign "George Clooney before he becomes George Clooney." Recently, the New York-based business manager for such stars as Bill O'Reilly, Steven Soderbergh and The Lego Movie co-writers Dan and Kevin Hageman restructured his firm to be more function-based. Instead of one manager for each client, now there's the "auto-leasing guy," the "mortgage person" and the accountant who researches guild pensions, among other specialities.

    Clinton or Trump managing your finances? "We've worked with Donald. I wouldn't trust him with our money. What you read about him is true. His word and contract never meant anything."

  • Terry Bird, Nancy Chapman and Craig Tessler

    The trio has been linked to megastars like Tom Cruise and Angelina Jolie, so it's no wonder they keep their activities mega-secret. Aside from sponsoring boxing icon Oscar De La Hoya's 16th annual charity golf outing this summer and being the contact on many of Bruce Springsteen's copyrights, this firm flies almost entirely under the internet's radar.

  • David Bolno, Richard Feldstein, Michael Karlin, Mickey Segal

    (Pictured: David Bolno)

    Founding partner Fred Nigro followed client David Letterman into retirement, but the firm still boasts a glitzy list of representations (Madonna, Drake, Pharrell) and reports double-digit growth annually. Besides handling investments and retirement planning, the firm often plays matchmaker, introducing clients to one another and getting these stars in front of others who can boost their career.

    Biggest extravagance
    Segal: "I've seen people fly dogs on private jets for a visit."

  • Andrew Crow

    Much of Crow's time now is spent helping young talent get an early handle on their finances. He recently signed 13-year-old A Wrinkle in Time lead Storm Reid, reps Disney prodigy Olivia Holt and has worked with Divergent star Shailene Woodley since she was a teen. "Hollywood is starting to pay young talent at the same level as adults — that's a big deal," says Crow. He also is excited about the growth of WG&S' music business since the company promoted David Lloyd to partner and brought on Bill Tannenbaum.

    Biggest extravagance "Any literature from Tibetan Buddhist Pema Chodron."

  • Eric Fulton

    Fulton is celebrating his first year running his own practice, which has grown into a 40-person shop. Some of the bigger names on his roster include the Hemsworth brothers and Channing Tatum, and just this year Colin Farrell signed on. There are musicians such as Colbie Caillat and Hall & Oates. The biggest growth is with digital media stars. "They're working on all these different networks in so many jobs with so many avenues to put up content," says Fulton. Among them: Jenna Marbles, Toby Turner, Christian DelGrosso and Ethan and Hila Klein.

    Worst purchase ever made "Ford Pinto."

  • Todd Gelfand, Jeff Gillman and Ron Nash

    (Pictured: Todd Gelfand)

    Gelfand's father, Marshall, founded the company in 1967, and it has grown to more than 300 employees in five offices. Gelfand runs the firm as managing partner, with Nash serving as the managing partner of the New York office. Big-name clients include Will Smith, Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond and Lionel Richie. Gelfand says he's focused on "internet influencers" who are big on YouTube, Vine and elsewhere, adding, "We continue to see that being a big growth area."

    Clinton or Trump managing your finances?
    Gelfand: "Like our clients, we trust ourselves to make the right decision."

  • Arnie Herrmann

    Herrmann looks after a 60-employee entertainment unit that sits within a 900-employee financial services firm that's one of the biggest in the U.S. Already the business manager of Matt Lauer and Martin Scorsese, he's recently signed about a dozen NBA players and a popular DJ. With the next U.S. president to be decided, he's playing it safe. "A lot of clients are saying, 'Let's hold up until after the election takes place.' They are concerned with both candidates."

    Oddest client purchase "I had a client invest in a marijuana shop in the state of Washington. I tried to dissuade."

  • Michael Kaplan

    The second-generation business manager's firm represents about 400 clients across the entertainment industry. And Kaplan says one of the biggest selling points for the firm is that it's a one-stop shop that goes beyond just money management by offering services like licensing, consulting, a media practice, auditing and accounting. "We have lots of systems and checks and balances, and that comes from our audit background. That is part of our pitch," says Kaplan. He also is seeing strong international growth given the firm's affiliate network worldwide.

    I always say no when a clients asks to … "Buy an island."

  • Mark Landesman and Paul Zukowsky

    (Pictured: Mark Landesman)

    Landesman and Zukowsky met in the early '80s when both were in the orbit of Saturday Night Live stars like John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. Landesman used his connections to sign Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock and other premium comedians, while Zukowsky would join forces much later in 2001 with a roster that focuses more heavily on actors, writers and models. Zukowsky says his job often is to bring order to the unpredictable lives of his clients.

    I always say no when a clients asks to …
    Zukowsky: "Invest in a new app."

  • Matt Lichtenberg

    Lichtenberg, who formed the firm in 2007, represents a roster of established comedians that includes Larry David and Will Ferrell. But he says one notable change in the business "is the astronomic monetary growth of digital media" stars — some of whom are "making seven figures … and are barely old enough to drive." He's interested to see whether their careers have staying power. He started in the industry during the early 1980s as an accountant before Chris Albrecht (who was an ICM agent at the time and now is CEO of Starz) persuaded him to set up his own shop.

  • Mary Ann McCready

    Since helping found FBMM 26 years ago with Frank Bumstead and Chuck Flood, McCready has made a name for herself as an advocate for Nashville's country music scene, serving as a trustee on the Music City Music Council and a finance committee member for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Clients include Blake Shelton, Keith Urban and Kelly Clarkson.

    Clinton or Trump managing your finances? "Neither. Warren Buffett."


  • John McIlwee

    McIlwee works with some of TV's biggest names, including Jane Lynch, who stars in Christopher Guest's upcoming Netflix movie Mascots, and firm client Maura Tierney, who won a Golden Globe for her role on Showtime's The Affair. But he also has a passion for helping fresh-faced talent. "I really like dealing with up-and-coming people because you never know who's going to break out," says McIlwee, whose client roster includes Francois Arnaud of NBC's upcoming drama Midnight, Texas and Briga Heelan, set to star on Tina Fey's NBC comedy Great News.

    I always say no when a client asks to … "Invest in a restaurant."

  • Martin Meeks

    Meeks has been a partner at the newly renamed firm (formerly Philpott, Bills, Stoll & Meeks; name partner Bob Philpott died in March 2015 at age 66) for nearly 20 years. Today, the 50-plus-person firm has more than 150 clients, but Meeks has focused on behind-the-camera types such as executives and producers. He works with a who's who of TV including Dick Wolf, who has four series on NBC, and prolific producer Jerry Bruckheimer. What has kept him so in-demand through the years? Says client Nicolas Cage, "He cares."

    Biggest extravagance Thrifty black cherry ice cream.

  • Andrew Meyer and Steves Rodriguez

    The longtime friends say they continue to grow the management firm behind Adam Driver, Kathryn Hahn, Johnny Galecki and Vince Vaughn. Rodriguez says the duo's goal is to "do everything we can to take things off their plate so they can breathe a little easier and become more involved with their financial lives." The firm is becoming more involved in the music business (Fifth Harmony is a client) and wading into virtual reality. "That's another area that's an evolution of content in production," says Meyer.

    I always say no when a client asks to …
    Meyer: "Invest in a bar."

  • Julie Miller and Mara Hofman

    (Pictured: Julie Miller)

    As co-managing partners of the firm’s business management and family office practice, Hofman and Miller work closely with clients from throughout entertainment. The duo is tight-lipped about with whom they work (they sign confidentiality agreements), but THR has reported Miller oversaw finances for the late Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon and now is executor of his estate. Miller has spent most of her career as a CPA, and Hofman was finance director at Patina Restaurant Group.

    Worst purchase ever made
    Hofman: "A waterfall for my backyard that has attracted a family of raccoons."

  • Harley Neuman

    Ellen DeGeneres can thank Neuman for helping her launch several successful ventures. He boasts that his client's consumer products business is growing quickly, even as she goes digital with Ellentube and continues to host a top daytime talk show. While DeGeneres has found a niche in the tech world, launching the mobile game Heads Up!, Neuman largely has been leery of the growth in celebrity investments. "People would walk into a room and pitch an idea, and people would throw money at them," he says. "I've said no more than yes." Neuman's conservative approach is all about protecting clients, who include Ryan Murphy and Lily Tomlin.

    Oddest client purchase "I had a client who wanted to buy the house used in The Amityville Horror. … He was a fan."

  • Alan Reback

    Aside from Elizabeth Taylor, who died in 2011, Reback declines to disclose the names of his clients. He co-founded his company with Derrick Lee after a top Hollywood producer encouraged him to create his own firm. Reback's specialty is production accounting, while Lee, a tax accountant for 26 years, leads the business management practice. Reback advises clients to "take a portion of every check and put it in savings for a rainy day."

    Biggest extravagance "Uber."

  • Lawrence Rudolph

    In 2015, Rudolph's L.A.-based accounting and financial planning firm Capell Rudolph merged into FFO, part of New York-based Focus Financial, a partnership of wealth management firms. The deal made the combined business bicoastal. The international tax attorney, raised in South Africa, now is executive director of FFO and leads operations and business development activity in California. His clients are believed to include Bob Newhart, Ben Silverman, Tom Werner and Jimmy Iovine. Rudolph describes his work as "a creative outlet. Creating a tax strategy, you have to navigate the legalities as well as the numbers."

  • Solomon Smallwood

    Clients Justin Bieber and Chris Brown have been on "very successful" tours most of the year, keeping Atlanta-based Smallwood and his team busy. "For each vendor or piece of equipment out there, there is some financial arrangement," he says. With 25 years' experience in the business, he is used to overnight calls. “Even when you get that call at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, the first thing the voice says is, ‘Were you asleep?’” he quips. The son of a minister preaches patience and managing lifestyle choices: “One of the things I say is, ‘Do you want to live like a king for a day or a prince for a lifetime?’”

  • Lou Taylor

    Taylor was a 20-something-year-old employee of a New York accounting firm when she founded her company 24 years ago. With an office in Nashville, it's no wonder her clientele includes country music stars Reba McEntire, Martina McBride and Florida Georgia Line. Taylor operates from Los Angeles, the new home of the NFL's Rams, and their head coach, Jeff Fisher, is a client. "People who are smart about their business always end up winning," she says. "I like to win."

    Worst purchase ever made "A gym membership. I hate the gym."

  • Bill Vuylsteke

    Vuylsteke has been with Provident more than three decades, and today there are eight partners at offices in Santa Monica, San Francisco and Nashville. Al Pacino and Lucy Liu are clients, as is Ben Mendelsohn, who just won an Emmy for his role on Netflix's Bloodline. "If we are adding value as opposed to crunching the numbers, we can often cover the cost of our service," says Vuylsteke. A bit of advice: "Treat every big deal like you won the lottery and it will never happen again."

    Oddest client purchase "Snakes, vineyards, a sunken treasure ship and a $1 million guitar."

  • David Weise

    DWA, as the firm is known, operates from offices in the U.K. and Encino and practically has become a one-stop shop for musicians seeking an "outsourced chief financial officer," as Weise has put it. The firm offers management and tax-consulting services along with insurance, royalty management and a tour department used by such clients as Usher, Coldplay and The Weeknd.

  • Bill Zysblat

    With a client list that includes The Rolling Stones, U2 and the estates of David Bowie and John Lennon, the 65-year-old can't complain about a lack of work. The best way for talent to cash in these days: "There are three ways to make money — touring, touring and touring." Bowie, with whom he worked for 34 years until the singer's death in January, was "the rarest combination of genius and graciousness," says Zysblat. "I miss him every day." As for business, Bowie "was a quick study," he adds. "From the first online fan club to the first securitization of royalties, David completely understood the underpinnings of the deals."