Hollywood's 25 Top Business Managers of 2017

6:45 AM 9/27/2017

by THR staff

THR's seventh annual list of entertainment's top financial advisers — the experts who guide investments, thwart hackers and stop you from buying that helicopter.

Business Managers List 2017 -Split -Publicity- H 2017
Courtesy Photos

Profiles by Paul Bond, Ashley Cullins, Eriq Gardner, Natalie Jarvey, Brian Porreca, Bryn Elise Sandberg, Rebecca Sun and Georg Szalai

This story first appeared in the Sept. 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

  • Howard Altman, Warren Grant and Corey Barash

    The firm has a roster of top-tier clients and the reputation to match it. "He is both meticulous and caring," power lawyer Jeanne Newman says of Altman. "I test his patience on a daily basis with my own personal business." Altman, Grant and Barash are mum about their Hollywood clientele, but the firm has been linked to Dwayne Johnson, Brad Pitt and Tom Hanks. "Our clients' wealth has increased in recent years, and the internet has created new challenges for us and them," says Grant, explaining that everything from hacks to email scams to uncertainty surrounding tax structures is making everyone a little uneasy. "A lot of people are holding on to cash right now."

  • Sharon Altman

    Whenever a client has a windfall of a year, as Jordan Peele had with 2017's most profitable film, Get Out, face-to-face time with a business manager becomes vital. "Today's generation is so attuned to emails and texting — getting them in front of you and making sure that you're on the same page becomes really important," says Altman, who took Peele on as a client back in 2004. She also works with a slew of younger clients, including YouTube stars Gigi Gorgeous and Eva Gutowski. "What's really important is to educate them to make wise short-term financial decisions," she says. "With an inflow of money, the wish list of things they want to do is huge."

    What’s the dumbest purchase/investment you or a client has ever made? "We have more than one client, as I’m sure many firms did, who got into the ATM Ponzi scheme. Thank God none of them were on my advice. Clients did it on their own."

  • Jeff Bacon and Steve Savitsky

    This boutique caters to Hollywood clients, professional athletes and digital media stars, but it also has recently seen more high-net-worth clients not affiliated with entertainment. Bacon has almost 30 years of experience in business management, the past 17 with the firm. Savitsky, who has been practicing business management for more than 23 years after a long stint in public accounting, says the firm tries "to remain true to its culture and attention to detail." The firm recently added another name partner, Chris Bucci, who'll co-manage the business with Savitsky.

    If you weren’t a business manager, what would you be?
    Bacon: "A columnist/blogger and play-by-play announcer."
    Savitsky: "A barista."

  • Evan Bell

    Client Bill O'Reilly had a tumultuous year, but Bell is helping him review post-Fox News opportunities. He also recently signed producer-writer-director Baz Luhrmann and another famous name he won't mention. "He had $2.5 million sitting there with no plan, no idea if his investments were good or bad. He never even met the managing partner of his account," he notes. It's a pet peeve for Bell, who says too many of his peers are so busy selling tax planning and bookkeeping services that they lose sight of the task at hand: "Good business managers are life-changing."

    If you weren’t a business manager, what would you be? "An unhappy failure, because I’ve wanted to be a business manager since I was 11."

  • Terry Bird, Nancy Chapman and Craig Tessler

    This ultra-discreet L.A. firm reps some of the top names in Hollywood. They won't tell you whom, but public documents link them to Tom Cruise and Angelina Jolie and The Big Bang Theory's Kaley Cuoco, who just signed on for two more seasons at $900,000 an episode. "Craig is one of the smartest people I know," says Matt Galsor, a talent attorney who shares clients with Tessler. "He knows the bottom line and gets there without detours."

  • John Blakeman and Brandy Davis

    Their client list includes Shonda Rhimes, F. Gary Gray and Hawaii Five-O producers Roberto Orci and Peter Lenkov. Davis has been spending a lot of time in Shondaland following Rhimes' lucrative Netflix deal. Meanwhile, Blakeman says one of his best tips for clients is something he learned as a boy: "My mom worked at a bank, and one of the things she told me was, as you get older, make sure you always have six months' saved."

    Invest in Bitcoin, yes or no?
    Davis: "I haven't invested in it."
    Blakeman: "We're analyzing it. Most business managers are conservative and we're not going to get into something that has the volatility that cyber-financial monetary things have. We're not going to recommend it and we haven't had a client demand that we buy it."

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

    One of the biggest firms in Hollywood, with 325 full-time employees and 450 clients ranging from Madonna to NBA star Dwight Howard, Nigro Karlin must tackle increasing concerns over the confidentiality of digital records. "We have to make sure we don't have any of those crazy breaches," says Segal. "That's certainly one of our greatest risks." Another? The litigation rash that's intensifying a need to write up communications with clients. Says Segal, "The largest weakness in our business is that people are so busy, they can't take 10 minutes to document."

    What's the first/best money advice you received when you were younger?
    Segal: “When I was buying my first home, a partner at my accounting firm told me to buy something based on what my income would be in three years. I know it sounds strange, but if you only buy what you can afford, you’re going to be unhappy and you may not be in a position to buy something else.”

  • Steven Campeas

    A client once described Campeas as "a cross between the Godfather and Mr. Rogers" after he talked him out of buying a helicopter. He won't name him, but it wasn't John Stamos — whom he has repped for three decades. Campeas also works with actress Rebecca Romijn, Battlestar Galactica's Katee Sackhoff, showrunner Kevin Abbott (Last Man Standing) and writer-director Boaz Yakin (Max). After nearly three decades in the biz, Campeas opened his own firm. He advises clients to focus on the basics. "Be part of your own life," he says. "Slow down your spending and save, save, save."

    What's the stupidest purchase/investment you or a client has ever made? "A vacation timeshare. Don’t do it. You’re hooked for life and can’t sell it."

  • Andrew Crow, Bill Tannenbaum and Eric Wasserman

    Tannenbaum has built a niche managing tour finances for musicians. He helped organize client Ariana Grande's Manchester benefit concert following the May terrorist attack outside her show. "It was life-changing," he says. "It put everything in perspective." The firm is focusing on growing through lateral recruitment and picking up clients from retiring peers, says managing partner Wasserman, who reps Richard Gere and New Kids on the Block. Crow continues to cultivate his young Hollywood base, repping Shailene Woodley and Storm Reid.

    If you weren’t a business manager, what would you be?
    Crow: "Playing for the Los Angeles Lakers."
    Tannenbaum: "A tennis chair umpire."

  • Eric Fulton

    Fulton left the calculator at home in August to join client Conor McGregor in Las Vegas for the fighter's first pro boxing match against Floyd Mayweather. "It was a fun night," says Fulton, even though McGregor lost. The MMA star is part of a roster at Fulton's 40-person firm that includes Channing Tatum, the Hemsworth brothers, Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan.

    Invest in Bitcoin, yes or no? "No. There is too much risk involved. When an investment goes well, you’re the hero. But if it goes south, you potentially risk losing a client altogether, so I tend to steer away from the more risky investments."

  • Todd Gelfand, Jeff Gillman and Ron Nash

    Marshall Gelfand and Irwin Rennert began the firm, celebrating 50 years in November by donating to 50 schools selected by its 320 employees, with a musician-heavy roster, including Neil Diamond and Bob Dylan, who still are with the company. Gelfand's son Todd, who now runs the business, notes that it was Rennert who encouraged him to follow in his father's footsteps. But he says his dad "was fully supportive of that decision." Today, the firm represents a mix of entertainment clients, including Will Smith, Lionel Richie and the NBA's Carmelo Anthony.

    What's the best app for saving money?
    Gelfand: Not Postmates!

  • Barry Greenfield and Frank Selvaggi

    The firm has offices in L.A. and New York, but you won't find them online. "We've built our business by word-of-mouth and being discreet," says Selvaggi, whose star clients Sarah Jessica Parker, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Lange are joined by such up-and-comers as Broad City's Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson and Girls' Zosia Mamet. "There are more opportunities, but everyone is getting paid a lot less," says Greenfield, who reps Games of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, along with Ashton Kutcher. "The number of artists making the killing that we used to have in the past is much smaller than it used to be."

    What's the first/best money advice you received when you were younger?
    Greenfield: "Buy Walt Disney stock. I was a young kid at the time, and I thought that by owning this piece of stock, I could go to Disneyland and sit on a bench and say, 'I own this bench.'"
    Selvaggi: "The best piece of advice that I got early in my life was from my father, who told me that I shouldn’t work for somebody else."

  • Arnie Herrmann

    Herrmann's clients include Martin Scorsese and Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo, who raised her profile by hosting a GOP debate and covering the conventions. He recently closed a $30 million real estate deal in the Hamptons for a high-profile media personality and helped multiple film and TV producers soup up cybersecurity. "We have a risk-assessment team and can handle this in-house," he says. But "the most fun" he's had recently was helping Matt Lauer set up a fund that will dole out scholarships to the children of NBC employees.

    Who's your favorite onscreen money man/woman? "Jonah Hill in Moneyball. Loved the movie, loved Jonah."

  • Gary Kress

    So secretive his firm doesn't even have a website, Kress keeps his email address as closely protected as Batman's true identity.

  • Mark Landesman and Paul Zukowsky

    This duo first met running errands for John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd while working for a CPA firm in Manhattan in the early '80s. Since then, Zukowsky has built the largest modeling roster in the business (while he won't spill Victoria's Secret, he's said to represent Behati Prinsloo and Coco Rocha). Landesman reps Zac Efron and an impressive list of comedians: Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan and Tina Fey. "You have more touring comedians than ever and many Netflix deals," he says. "The comedy business is hotter now than it's been in probably the last 10 years."

    If you weren’t a business manager, what would you be?
    Zukowsky: "A car collector."
    Landesman: "I'd probably be an investment advisor on Wall Street."

  • Matt Lichtenberg and John Rigney

    Rigney and Lichtenberg are happy that their long-term clients — Will Ferrell, Jim Carrey, Samuel L. Jackson, etc. — continue to have a full work life. And newer clients like Walton Goggins are bringing in lucre, too. But that doesn't mean managing their money is easy. "Lawyers and agents deal with it on the frontlines, but we deal with it in the trenches," says Rigney, who cuts to the chase in breaking bad news to clients. "I'm the blunt guy," he says. "Not everyone likes the blunt guy."

    Who's your favorite onscreen money man/woman?
    Rigney: “Steve Carrell in The Big Short. He was very dogged.”

  • John McIlwee

    With clients such as Planet of the Apes franchise director Matt Reeves seeing their careers heat up, "my goal is to raise their financial baseline," says McIlwee. Another interesting opportunity comes with representing famous families, as the business manager does with Great News star Briga Heelan and her husband, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend writer-actor Rene Gube. "I'm the Swiss entity in [families'] lives," says McIlwee, who also recently signed mother-daughter duo Andie MacDowell and Rainey Qualley.

    What's the first/best money advice you received when you were younger? "My grandpa, who just turned 99 and is a Pearl Harbor survivor, grew up really poor in Iowa and said, 'You’ve got to save your money. All I had to eat growing up was potatoes.' I never forgot it."

  • Martin Meeks

    When stars like Nicolas Cage and such power players as Jerry Bruckheimer, Dick Wolf and Lorenzo di Bonaventura need to make sure their heirs are set for life, they turn to Meeks, a Loyola Law School grad who has been a partner at this firm for more than 20 years. "We have made multigenerational succession planning a focus for not only our firm, but also for our clients to distinguish ourselves within the community," he says.

    If you weren’t a business manager, what would you be? "According to my high school counselor, a priest."

  • Andrew Meyer and Steves Rodriguez

    The partners and longtime friends have complementary practices. Meyer tends to work with talent, including Ellen Pompeo, Kathryn Hahn and Alexander Skarsgard; while Rodriguez works with production and music clients such as Droga5 and VR firm We Be Dragons. But both say the rise in streaming platforms has impacted their business. "The proliferation of these players has driven content into the marketplace in a way we haven't seen," says Rodriguez.

    What's the best app for saving money?
    Meyer: "Mint is favored by many of our younger clients. While it has its limitations, it’s a great tool to help people with day-to-day budgeting."
    Rodriguez: "There are some great budgeting apps, but the reality is most creative people will still struggle with them. So my vote goes to Venmo because finally there is an easy way to not always pick up the tab!"

  • Harley Neuman

    Neuman's clients range from industry multihyphenates like Ryan Murphy and Ellen DeGeneres to top talent like Scarlett Johansson, Lily Tomlin and Emma Roberts. New to the list this year? Guardians of the Galaxy star Zoe Saldana. Increasingly, Neuman is seeing his clients turn to TV and streaming services. "There's more money available, more ability for them to flex their creativity," he says.

    Invest in Bitcoin, yes or no? "I do not. China just decided they're not going to let anyone transact in Bitcoin in the entire country because they're concerned about currency manipulation, and they feel like they'd lose their ability to control the valuation of currency if there was an alternative currency out there. So that's one of the reasons I'm not a fan of it, because I feel like it's still a big unknown and there's a lack of control there."

  • Solomon Smallwood

    Justin Bieber and Chris Brown are among the high notes of the Atlanta-based firm's mostly musical roster. But the minister's son has "significantly" reduced his client list in the past year. "The servicing cost these days far exceeds most clients' earnings potential because technology has really undermined our ability to monetize content," he says. "If you are an artist and don't have a touring platform, it's hard for you to make a living."

    If you weren’t a business manager, what would you be? “I would be a real estate developer. I actually do that. I have a partner who understands that space, and I’m more the financial side.”

  • Justin Stiegemeyer

    Stiegemeyer made the move from accountant to business manager in the early 2000s. "I like the interaction with people and that I'm not just dealing with numbers," he says of the shift. After more than a decade learning the ropes at other companies, Stiegemeyer recently set up his own boutique firm, where he reps such clients as Taylor Kitsch, Naya Rivera, Benicio del Toro, Ashley Benson and Bella Thorne.

    Who's your favorite onscreen money man/woman? "Damian Lewis’ character in Billions. I love him. I watch that show religiously."

  • Lou Taylor

    While client Jennifer Lopez is in the midst of her three-year deal as a resident performer at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, client Britney Spears wraps up her five years at the same venue this year. "Business management is not just a deal, it's career perpetuation and brand-building," says Taylor. She recently helped client Florida Georgia Line launch its Old Camp line of whiskey — "peach pecan, easy drinking."

    What’s the dumbest purchase/investment you or a client has ever made? "I definitely have a shoe fetish, but they aren’t dumb investments because they’re like my children."

  • Jeff Turner and Bill Vuylsteke

    Music clients include Shakira and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. On the Hollywood side, the firm is linked to Al Pacino, Lucy Liu and Ben Mendelsohn, who's breaking into box-office franchises with Robin Hood and Ready Player One.

    What's the best app for saving money?
    Turner: "For the novice, Dave Ramsey’s EveryDollar budgeting app or Mint."

  • David Weise

    Weise's 150-person firm is growing, and it now allows its employees to work remotely so they can balance work and life when handling the finances of clients like Coldplay and Deadmau5. Weise says he likes to chart the financial future for clients, but "technology has made it both better and worse. It allows us to have clients all over the world. The negative is that you are now connected, and they want their questions answered immediately."

    What's the first/best money advice you received when you were younger? "Don't spend what you don't have."