Hollywood's Top Business Managers of 2019

6:00 AM 10/10/2019

by THR staff

The entertainment industry's money managers prefer to avoid the limelight. To their chagrin, public documents and insiders help The Hollywood Reporter spotlight the people who help A-listers build empires and avoid bad investments.

Anthony Bonsignore, Melissa Morton, Humble Lukanga and Andrew Meyer Split-Getty-H 2019
Courtesy of Subjects

Profiles written by Paul Bond, Sharareh Drury, Mia Galuppo, Eriq Gardner, Natalie Jarvey, Bryn Sandberg, Rebecca Sun and Georg Szalai.

  • David Altman, Anthony Bonsignore and Frank Selvaggi

    New York-based Bonsignore and Selvaggi work with rising and established stars from Timothée Chalamet and Rachel Brosnahan to Jimmy Fallon and Anne Hathaway. Out West, the firm has shepherded Donald Glover as he jumped to full multihyphenate status. Says Altman, who heads the L.A. office, "It's great to see the firm grow along with them."

    Trick for surviving tax season

    Altman: "Knowing your limits."

    Bonsignore: "I try to take a long weekend once a month and go somewhere warm for three days."

    Favorite accountant joke

    Bonsignore: "Why do accountants get excited on the weekends? Because they can wear casual clothes to work."

  • Howard Altman, Corey Barash and Warren Grant

    "It's not for us right now," says Altman of the consolidation craze that's hit the industry. The firm is busier than ever as clients are increasingly interested in opportunities outside of TV and film, many of which involve an ownership stake. It's gotten out that the firm reps such megastars as Dwayne Johnson, Tom Hanks and Brad Pitt, but Altman still won't publicly acknowledge any of it. "We have always believed in a quiet approach and I don’t think clients want to see me talking about them," he says, adding with a laugh, "It makes me no fun at parties."

    Stop asking to invest in …

    Altman: "Cryptocurrency."

  • Jeff Bacon, Chris Bucci and Steve Savitsky

    Cracking Fort Knox would be easier than getting this trio to name-drop. They don't even tell prospective clients who they rep. "In all cases that has boded well for us in getting those clients to sign," says Bucci. They will talk about their company's future: While many firms have rolled into Focus Financial Partners, SSBB went a different route and in September was acquired by New York-based insurance broker NFP. Adds Bucci, "Having their bench and resources will help with claims, benefits and structuring premiums that are more advantageous for clients."

    Please never reboot … 

    Bacon: "It's a Wonderful Life."

    Bucci: "Seinfeld. It was perfect as is."

    Savitsky: "Your checking account."

    Favorite accountant joke

    Bacon: "A prospective client interviews three potential accounting firms. Client asks, 'What’s two plus two?' Accountant answers, 'four.' Client interviews a second firm and asks, 'What’s two plus two?' Accountant answers, 'four,. Client interviews the third firm and asks, 'What’s two plus two?' Accountant answers, 'What do you want to be?' Clients says, 'You’re hired!'"

    Savitsky: "Mistakes happen at times. That is why they call it 'practicing' accounting."

  • Tyson Beem, Todd Gelfand and Melissa Morton

    The firm co-founded by Gelfand's father in 1967 continues to rock along, summarizing its values as: "Diligence. Integrity. Passion." Its clients include Bob Dylan, Christina Aguilera, Lionel Richie, Will Smith, Zack Snyder, Robert Zemeckis and a growing list of influencers — in addition to its role as the official auditing firm for the Recording Industry Association of America. Morton notes, "We are seeing continued trends of opportunities for artists to monetize their income streams." Meanwhile, Gelfand lauds the firm's "continued organic growth" and key acquisitions of Skeet Kaye Hopkins, WG&S and Lawrence Rudolph. 

    Please never reboot … 

    Beem: "Your marriage."

    Trick for surviving tax season

    Beem: "There is no tax season anymore. Taxes and tax planning are all year long."

  • Evan Bell

    Bell says his clients (Steven Soderbergh, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Amanda Seyfried) are more nervous than ever about their money in light of the political climate and — even though most of them are liberal (Bill O'Reilly notwithstanding) — the looming prospect of Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax. He says there's a "flight to safety" with investments and he finds himself playing "therapist and guidance counselor" a lot these days.

    Splurge that pays off "First-class travel. We've met some people who turned into clients."

  • John Blakeman and Brandy Davis

    Davis, whose clients include Shonda Rhimes, F. Gary Gray and Roberto Orci, says the war between the WGA and talent agencies has upended the status quo. "There's been a lot of disruption," she says. "It's hard to see what the fallout will be." Blakeman keeps his tax strategies for star clients close to the vest, but shares: "If two pizzas can't feed the people in the meeting, you have too many people at the meeting."

    Trick for surviving tax season 

    Blakeman: "Don't procrastinate."

    Davis: "Meditation."

    Riskiest investment in 2019

    Blakeman: "“Staying in line with anything Trump. Trump is a sad, embarrassing wreck of a man!”

    Davis: “No particular class. Just one that’s not researched or vetted.”

  • David Bolno, Richard Feldstein, Bernie Gudvi, Michael Karlin, Michael Oppenheim and Mickey Segal

    "I had a client ask me if I had any investments like Apple where he could make 100 times his money. I told him if I had any of those, I wouldn't be working anymore," jokes Segal, whose clients include singer Paul Anka and billionaire Thomas Tull. The firm, which is part of Focus and has itself acquired multiple boutiques, boasts music clients including Drake, Justin Timberlake, Post Malone, Eminem, Maroon 5, Beyoncé and Madonna.

    Stop asking to invest in … 

    Gudvi: "Marijuana and bitcoin."

    Segal: "Startup private equity deals."

    Toughest financial advice to follow

    Gudvi: "Lower your monthly expenses."

    Segal: "Making money is a slow process; there is no easy money."

  • Steve Campeas

    New clients for Campeas include Lala Kent (Vanderpump Rules) and Niko Guardado, who's starring in Freeform's Party of Five reboot. "I spend a lot of time nurturing young talent, providing a personal approach and not putting them into a box," says Campeas, who also reps Katee Sackhoff, Chiwetel Ejiofor and John Stamos. New tax laws “are a highlight, or a lowlight,” he quips, and the jury is still out on changes in California’s labor laws: “The way entertainers are treated by studios. Can they be paid as corporations or not? It’s TBD.”

    Riskiest investment in 2019 "The Endeavor IPO. But that didn't happen."

    Please never reboot ... "Your personality — unless your staff insists on it."

    Trick for surviving tax season "Golf."

  • Jamie Cheek, Mary Ann McCready and Carmen Romano

    McCready, along with fellow firm founders Frank Bumstead and Chuck Flood, has handed over management of the company to the next generation, including new president Cheek and vp Romano. She is, however, keeping her clients, who include Blake Shelton and Kelly Clarkson. The firm reps country, pop, rock and EDM stars with a roster that includes The Black Keys, Diplo, Kings of Leon and Thomas Rhett. Cheek says clients across all genres have recently expressed interest in investing in other musicians' catalogs. "If you're trying to find something to invest in, publishing is not a bad idea, especially if you can get it for a good price."

    Splurge that pays off 

    Cheek: "When you have a lot of work to do on a long flight, move up a class."

    Romano: "A great vacation."

    Favorite accountant joke

    Cheek: "Who do farmers hire to count their livestock? An a-COW-ntant. Yes, I did just put that joke in writing. Sorry."

    Riskiest investment in 2019

    Romano: "Bitcoin."

    McCready: "Juul."

  • Charles Clancy, Mark Friedman, Matt Lichtenberg and John Rigney

    This foursome's roster includes tentpole stars, comic icons and cult hit creators. Rigney has spent decades advising Jim Carrey and Samuel L. Jackson, and also works with Danny McBride and Josh Hutcherson. "Overall deals have started to become gigantic, and the streaming services are tying up unique talent in very, very big ways," says Rigney, adding: "So we're all enjoying the good ol' days." Litchenberg runs point on comedy heavyweights Will Ferrell, Larry David and Molly Shannon; Friedman's client Quentin Tarantino hit it big with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood; and Clancy saw Chris Miller and Phil Lord win an Oscar for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

    Toughest financial advice to follow 

    Clancy: "One house, one car, one significant other."

    Friedman: "Live below your means."

    Lichtenberg: "Maintain a healthy balance in both your professional and personal life."

    Rigney: "Don't increase your spending to match your increase in earnings."

    Favorite accountant joke

    Friedman: "What's an accountant's favorite book? 50 Shades of Grey."

    Lichtenberg: "There are three types of accountants: those who can count and those who can't."

    Splurge that pays off:

    Clancy: "Personal training (of any kind)."

    Rigney: "A family vacation after an intense job."

  • Andrew Crow and Eric Wasserman

    Navigating business taxes is complicated ("determining how best to utilize Section 199A"), but Wasserman's advice to clients young and old is simple: "Frugality." This duo reps such music, TV and film powerhouses as Gwen Stefani, Richard Gere and Jordan Peele, as well as Disney darling Olivia Holt, and recently combined forces with Gelfand, Rennert & Feldman.

    Splurge that pays off

    Wasserman: "A professional executive coach."

    Favorite accountant joke

    Crow: "What is the definition of accountant? Someone who solves a problem you didn’t know you had in a way you don’t understand.”

  • Christopher Fank

    "They really want to bring you into their lives," says Fank of his clients — among them Captain Marvel star Brie Larson and Sharp Objects producer Jessica Rhoades, who recently launched her banner Pacesetter. Aside from helping clients financially navigate booming careers, Fank has been busy digging into the tax code. "Adjusting to these new laws took a lot of time."

    Trick to surviving tax season "You are never going to get a lot of rest, so eat well."

    Favorite accountant joke

    “How do accountants practice birth control? Their personalities.”

    Please stop asking to invest in ...

    "Bitcoin. That one drives me nuts."

  • Eric Fulton and Elizabeth Ricin

    While the Fulton management duo has their share of established talent like Taika Waititi, Channing Tatum and Chris Hemsworth, they also court a lot of rising stars. The Good Place's Jameela Jamil and Riverdale breakout Camila Mendes put their finances in the firm's hands (for the most part). "Young Hollywood really sees their relationships with business managers differently," says Fulton, "Millennials are much more of an 'I can do it' generation." Adds Ricin, "We offer a lot of flexibility where they are getting help but are also still in control."

    Riskiest investment in 2019 

    Fulton: "Startups. A lot of my younger clients are quick to jump into those and sometimes they pay off — a client got into Dry Bar when they had one location — but there are countless start-ups where a friend of a friend tells them to jump into it and it’s a risk "

    Toughest financial advice to follow

    Ricin: “People love to say, ‘Put me on a budget,’ but as I always tell clients the budgets is only as good as you are willing to follow.”

  • Harvey Gettleson and Randy O'Connor

    Gettleson and O'Connor had their hands full with client J.J. Abrams' overall deal with WarnerMedia. "That was one of the biggest challenges I've had in my entire career," says 40-year veteran Gettleson. Adds O'Connor, who also counts Ava DuVernay and Will Packer among his Hollywood clients: "It was a lot of weekends, a lot of nights." Meanwhile, Gettleson is also celebrating a more personal achievement: His 35-year-old son, Seth, will be named a partner at the firm this year.

    Trick to surviving tax season 

    Gettleson: "Changing coffee brew choices twice a day."

    O'Connor: "Book a vacation for right after, so you have something to look forward to."

    Splurge that pays off

    Gettleson: "Art pays off in enjoyment and value appreciation."

    O'Connor: "Traveling with the family. Since we are so busy, it’s the time we can all reconnect."

  • Laura Gordon

    "Planning and budgeting is a little bit different for the artists and writer-producers," says Gordon, who tailors her approach for clients across sports and entertainment such as Lena Waithe, Nick Cannon, Amandla Stenberg and Yvette Lee Bowser. "We make sure they have more security in terms of the short-term and intermediate savings, so that if they've been on hiatus for a while they can afford to be a bit more particular about projects," she says. "They can choose based on passion as opposed to having to pay the bills."

    Riskiest investment in 2019 "Betting on the presidential election."

    Toughest financial advice to follow "Stick with the budget and save aggressively."

  • Arnie Herrmann and Sharon Sullivan

    Herrmann likes to say that Citrin Cooperman's roots are in rock 'n' roll, as the firm was started 40 years ago with loans from Yes and The Who. While The Who remains a client — Sullivan, who joined the firm in 2018 from CohnReznick, handles the account — the roster now includes some of Hollywood's biggest names. Herrmann represents top-tier directors (Martin Scorsese, Gus Van Sant), prolific producers (Scott Rudin), Oscar-nominated actors (Liam Neeson) and veteran journalists (Barbara Walters).

    Please stop asking to invest in … 

    Herrmann: "Private equity."

    Sullivan: "A restaurant."

    Favorite accountant joke

    Herrmann: "Where do homeless accountants live? Tax shelters."

    Sullivan: "Ready? Why are accountants cool, calm and collected? They have strong internal controls. That joke makes me laugh each time I hear it."

    Splurge that pays off

    Herrmann: "Private jets (chartering, not owning). It's a luxury that affords privacy, time and peace of mind."

    Sullivan: "A solid college education; Invest in yourself, your children or your grandchildren."

  • Elizabeth Kenney

    Like her star clients Tiffany Haddish and Awkwafina, Kenney isn't your typical buttoned-up business manager. In fact, she was referred by the latter's management because of a "laid-back" compatibility. Speaking of relaxedness, Kenney says a big trend among her clients is that "everyone wants to buy marijuana stocks."

    Trick for surviving tax season "Drink lots of water and eat lots of Salt & Straw."

    Please stop asking to invest in ... "Cryptocurrencies."

  • Lester Knispel

    From Woodland Hills, Knispel keeps up with some major Hollywood players. He's been linked to Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner, as well as Shaquille O'Neal, Sylvester Stallone and George Lopez. "Lester and his team are reliable, thorough, accessible and easy to work with," says attorney Shawn Holley, who shares clients with Knispel. "His professionalism is matched only by his kind, caring and loyal nature."

  • Justin Kobay and Bruce Seckendorf

    Seckendorf likes to keep his work for clients like Timbaland and Juice Wrld discreet, even basing his 40-person practice on Long Island instead of in Manhattan (though LL — named after his daughters' first initials — also has offices in L.A. and London). Kobay, who primarily works with young talent like "Old Town Road" breakout Lil Nas X and singer-songwriter Lauv, says he aims to teach good financial habits: "Part of my job is educating them so they're set up for success for the rest of their lives."

    Trick for surviving tax season 

    Kobay: "Exercise and a healthy diet."

    Seckendorf: "A lot of meds and alcohol — not at the same time."

    Favorite accountant joke

    Seckendorf: "What’s the difference between accountants and attorneys? Accountants know they’re boring."

    Toughest financial advice to follow

    Kobay: "Make the sacrifices now that will pay off tenfold in your future. My goal is for all of my clients to have the financial freedom to retire at any age they desire, whether that is 25 or 85. Take risks on your craft in the music industry, not on the bulk of your investments."

  • Mark Landesman and Paul Zukowsky

    Landesman and Zukowsky have resisted buyout offers in order to keep their shop independent and small enough to maintain close relationships with clients (Gal Gadot, Eddie Murphy, Tina Fey). "We're number one on the speed dial," says Zukowsky, adding that many of his clients recently have been moving from New York to California, where the hot L.A. real estate market has created more work for the firm.

    Riskiest investment in 2019 

    Zukowsky: "The marijuana industry. There's just so much competition."

    Trick for surviving tax season

    Zukowsky: "Ambien."

  • David Levin

    Levin's parents pushed him into accounting, but he didn't find his fit in finance until he went to work for a firm with clients like Madonna. In the late '90s, he struck out on his own with DL Business Management, which today employs 10 people. On his intentionally small client list are model Hailey Baldwin Bieber and Jessica Simpson. Levin, who attended the 2013 wedding of clients John Legend and Chrissy Teigen with his daughter, says the secret to his success is treating his employees and clients like family: "I run my business like I run my life."

    Splurge that pays off "Purchasing real estate versus renting, especially during times of low interest rates."

    Toughest financial advice to follow "Pay yourself first every month and only spend within your budget and means."

  • Humble Lukanga

    After he was profiled in THR's 2018 Power Business Managers issue, Lukanga saw an "explosive" increase in business, he reports. "There were people looking for me," he says, "who didn't know I existed." What he means: a person of color who runs his own financial institution and can relate to his clients "on a deeper level, way beyond finances." In addition to Issa Rae, his roster now includes Terry Crews, Yara Shahidi and Marsai Martin. As an immigrant — he was born and raised amid the Ugandan genocide — he has a unique perspective on the problems of "first-world opulence" and strives to secure financial freedom for his clients "and their children's children's children."

    Toughest financial advice to follow "Saying no to the people you love. People are going to call you with a million requests, and to say no you have to create boundaries."

    Riskiest investment in 2019 "Every year it’s not investing in yourself. Invest in yourself, in your craft, learn, push yourself, because you'll always be the biggest ROI for yourself. The riskiest thing is to stop investing in your education, health and mental wellness while you're chasing coin. I tell people around me all the time, 'protect the asset,' and that asset is always you."

  • Carolyn Malcolm

    In the late 1980s, Malcolm was working as a production assistant for an indie film company when she found a check under the cushion of her boyfriend's couch. "Someone has to help him pay the bills," she thought. Later her boyfriend's brother needed tax help. The guy's name? David Duchovny. Through word of mouth, Malcolm's practice attracted stars including Ethan Hawke and Sofia Coppola, and she now has a team of 20 looking after 80 clients.

    Splurge that pays off "For me, it's a yoga retreat, but for most, it's buying a home you love."

    Trick for surviving tax season "Super-clean books."

  • John McIlwee

    McIlwee will be watching the Tokyo Summer Olympics, where his client, 11-year-old skateboarder Sky Brown, hopes to become one of the youngest competitors ever. He also continues his work with more traditional talent like The Batman director Matt Reeves, actress Selma Blair and newcomer Curran Walters (Titans). McIlwee, who also has art and digital clients, says people come to him either "to streamline their lives or to build their lives."

    Please never reboot … The Swan

    Favorite accountant joke "I've never heard a funny one."

    Toughest financial advice to follow "Just buy what you need."

  • Martin Meeks and Aaron Philpott

    Philpott, the son of late business manager Bob Philpott, likes to tell people that he began running the halls 36 years ago when his dad started the company. "I've been here literally my whole life," says Philpott, who's technically been on the payroll for 17 years and works with STX chief Bob Simonds and actor James Caan. Meanwhile, Meeks, who's been a partner at the firm for two decades, advises such Hollywood hitmakers as Dick Wolf and Jerry Bruckheimer. The firm, which just opened another office in Encino, also counts Michael J. Fox and Friendscreators David Crane, Kevin Bright and Marta Kauffman as clients.

    Riskiest investment in 2019 

    Meeks: "Watching CNBC."

    Philpott: "Trying to time the market (or the president)."

    Please never reboot ...

    Meeks: "Old partnerships. They went wrong the first time around. Why go through it again?"

    Philpott: "Anything on the Bravo channel."

    Splurge that pays off

    Meeks: "A great mattress. A good night’s sleep keep your mind at its best."

    Philpott: "Hopefully my 2019 Dodger World Series tickets."

  • Andrew Meyer and Steves Rodriguez

    "Working with someone since they were right out of film school, it is really amazing to see and be a part of that," says Meyer, referring to Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu, who enjoyed a particularly big year alongside Meyer's fellow multihyphenate clients Ramy Youssef, Kenya Barris and Ellen Pompeo. For his part, Rodriguez's 2019 has been dominated by transactions for larger companies including ad agency Droga5 and creative think tank Prettybird. He notes, "There are a lot more M&A transactions happening in the production world."

    Stop asking to invest in … 

    Meyer: "Italian sports cars."

    Rodriguez: "A restaurant."

    Trick to surviving tax season

    Meyer: “Keeping our accounts as happy as possible. Unlimited dark roast lattes going 24 hours.”

    Rodriguez: “Bruce’s Catering.”

  • Harley Neuman

    Neuman, who was honored in 2018 as THR's inaugural Business Manager Icon, boasts clients ranging from TV and film stars to powerful execs: Ellen DeGeneres, Ryan Murphy, Scarlett Johansson, Emma Roberts and Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, to name a few. Neuman finds California's AB 5 law, which was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 18, of major importance for next year's taxes. "That law is putting the use of loan-out corporations by everybody in the business in jeopardy." Neuman says. "It could really affect California's ability to stay in the entertainment business because a lot of people are going to want to leave the state."

    Please never reboot "I Love Lucy. It's a classic sitcom that would never be the same without those people."

  • Lou Taylor

    Taylor, who built one of the industry's top firms by reinvesting her fees in her business when it was getting off the ground — safeguarding clients like Steven Tyler, Florida Georgia Line, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Britney Spears — is the recipient of The Hollywood Reporter's second annual Business Manager Icon award.

    Read more about Taylor here.

  • Jeff Turner and Bill Vuylsteke

    Before his retirement, Solomon Smallwood's Atlanta-based TSG Financial Management merged into Provident, bringing music stars like Justin Bieber, Toni Braxton and The-Dream to the firm. Turner, who in 1994 merged his own practice into what later became Provident, and senior managing director Vuylsteke, are among a SoCal team that reps talent, execs and companies across music, film and TV and has been linked to Angela Bassett, Courtney B. Vance, Mike Judge, Al Pacino and Lucy Liu.

  • David Weise

    Since his firm's 1999 launch, Weise has expanded its focus beyond his love of rock 'n' roll. So the likes of Usher, Skrillex, Deadmau5 and The Weeknd have joined Coldplay, Jack White and Carole King on the roster. The Encino-based company also works with actors, writers and athletes — but Weise is most proud of his 20-year relationship with Irish American punk band Flogging Molly. He says they had one of their best years ever last year and already are set for eventual retirement. "That gives me the most satisfaction," he says. "You can actually make a difference in people's lives." In early 2019, Weise's firm became a division of NKSFB, part of a growing consolidation trend in the industry. Another trend? "State tax payments are no longer deductible at the federal level, so many of our clients are moving out of the state of California into tax-friendly states like Washington, Texas, Tennessee and Florida."

    Riskiest investment in 2019 "On a funny note, but this is no joke: Stay away from anyone who is coming to you with an investment proposal who is driving a pink Ferrari. That has actually happened."

    Splurge that pays off "The best recommended splurge right now, if you can do it, is moving out of an aggressive tax state like California or New York into a more friendly state that doesn’t have state income tax. You have to make it your home residence. You have to go through all the necessary steps. It’s not just how many days you are in the state, but also who your doctors are, where your kids go to school. A lot of states are very aggressive, especially California, because they have the ability to look at where your cell phone is, where you spend your time, credit card statements. You really need to be legitimate."

  • THR's Top Business Managers Get Serious (Anonymously) and Silly

    Recession worries? Do this:

    Stay calm and don’t read the news (“everything cycles in and out”)

    Pay off or refinance debt now, and lock in low interest rates for later

    Put enough cash in savings to cover one to two years of expenses

    Stop asking to invest in...

    Marijuana, restaurants, and cryptocurrency

    Joke about the job:

    What’s the difference between accountants and attorneys? Accountants know they’re boring. — Bruce Seckendorf

    There are three types of accountants. Those who can count and those who can’t. — Matt Lichtenberg 

    Go ahead, splurge on...

    Moving to a tax-friendly state.

    A relaxing vacation.


    This story first appeared in the Oct. 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.