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Profiles by Paul Bond, Ashley Cullins, Mia Galuppo, Eriq Gardner, Natalie Jarvey, Bryn Elise Sandberg, Tatiana Siegel, Rebecca Sun and Georg Szalai
Howard Altman, Corey Barash and Warren Grant
“We limit the number of clients we represent in order to maintain a high level of service,” says Grant. He, Altman and Barash may have a lean list, but the notoriously tight-lipped moneymen are known to keep good company. Some of Hollywood’s heaviest hitters — Dwayne Johnson, Tom Hanks and Brad Pitt, among others — have been linked to them. Says Grant, “We do our homework and evaluate who we want to represent.”
Altman’s firm NSBN rang in 2018 by following the accounting industry’s M&A trend and merging with national powerhouse CLA. “It brings a lot of additional expertise and services to our clients,” says Altman. “Most of our clients in the entertainment industry work outside of the U.S. at some point, and [CLA] has a huge international tax expertise.” That’s good news for clients like Jordan Peele, Star Trek alum Brent Spiner and YouTuber Gigi Gorgeous.
How do you unwind after tax season? “Las Vegas, baby.”
Jeff Bacon, Chris Bucci and Steve Savitsky
The boutique, which services entertainment clients, professional athletes and influencers, is settling in to a newly constructed Century City office after outgrowing its former Westwood home. “We love it,” says Bucci, of industry consolidation. “Because of it, we are one of very few independently owned and operated firms of our size.” Bucci co-manages the business with Savitsky, who has about 25 years of experience, while former sportscaster Bacon has 30 years under his belt.
If I had limitless funds, I’d buy … Bucci: “The New York Yankees.”
How do you unwind after tax season?
Bucci: "Spending time with my family. Our firm also has a meditation room set up by The Den Meditation (my favorite meditation studio), which our employees always use."
Bell has repped Steven Soderbergh “since before he was Steven Soderbergh,” he says with a laugh. So it’s no surprise that he’s filling out his roster of veterans like Bond director Cary Fukunaga, Bill O’Reilly, Dan and Kevin Hageman and Marv Albert with such up-and-coming talent as Mudbound helmer Dee Rees and Monsters and Men’s Reinaldo Marcus Green. When it comes to courting new clients, the New Yorker says, “We ask, ‘How much do you save? Have you thought about a tax plan? Have you thought about a five-year investment plan?’ If we get, ‘No. No. No,’ we typically sign those clients.”
Fictional banker you’d trust with your money “George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life.”
John Blakeman and Brandy Davis
“I’m seeing the shift outside of traditional media a lot,” says Davis, who describes client Shonda Rhimes’ Netflix mega-deal as a game-changer. “And I’m seeing it across younger talent, who are going to the different alternative media platforms and having really good success.” Blakeman’s advice for clients is simple: “Invest in what you are buying.” The firm also reps Hawaii Five-0 producers Roberto Orci and Peter Lenkov, Men in Black spinoff helmer F. Gary Gray and a slate of writers and directors.
What’s the trendiest new investment in Hollywood? Davis: “Cannabis, of course. Bitcoin has been chomped around a lot. And the third super-hot thing is tech.”
Anthony Bonsignore and Frank Selvaggi
Newly minted Emmy winner Rachel Brosnahan turns to this pair for financial advice. And while Selvaggi handles business for established stars like Anne Hathaway, Jimmy Fallon and Jessica Chastain, Bonsignore reps several of Hollywood’s recent breakouts, including Sterling K. Brown and Greta Gerwig. “The trickiest part of the business is the highs and lows,” says Bonsignore. “I always say, ‘You’re going to be having new opportunities, but continue to stay grounded and with the goals you had prior to the success.”
If I had limitless funds, I’d buy … Bonsignore: “A pony for my daughter (the most expensive hobby).”
Burke’s roster includes a core base of showrunners behind current hit series including The Walking Dead, Legends of Tomorrow and The Handmaid’s Tale and yesterday’s favorites Cheers and ER. His Encino-based firm has also carved out a niche representing independent production, talent management and digital media companies and is leading the pack in its embrace of database technology and business intelligence software to track contractual payments and avoid accounting headaches. “It’s a lot of work to get the data from the contracts and input it, but it’s totally worth it,” says Burke. “We’ve found hundreds of thousands of dollars due clients, even on straight overall deals for writer-producers.”
My binge watch Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
In the three decades Campeas has been in the industry, business management hasn’t changed much. It’s still all about saving and planning for the future for such clients as Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Stamos and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before darling Lana Condor. That said, Campeas admits technology has made it too easy to get by without actually seeing clients. Since opening his firm, Campeas has made a renewed commitment to put down his smartphone and get old-school face time with clients.
Fictional banker you’d trust with your money “Christian Bale in The Big Short.”
Crow’s client base includes some of Hollywood’s brightest emerging stars, including A Wrinkle in Time breakout Storm Reid and Disney Channel star Olivia Holt. “It took me four years to sign her as a client,” says Crow of the latter, explaining that working with young stars involves building trust with their parents and teams. “I started dialoguing with her manager when she was 13 or 14 years old.” He also continues to rep clients Judith Light, Adrianne Palicki and Cailee Spaeny.
How do you unwind after tax season? “We’re big staycationers. We live in Beverly Hills, so we’ll go to the Peninsula or the Four Seasons.”
Mark Friedman, Matt Lichtenberg and John Rigney
The veteran trio works with heavyweights like Quentin Tarantino, Jim Carrey and Samuel L. Jackson. “More pronounced this year are the number of people who are creating content,” says Friedman. “The business seems to really be hitting on all cylinders right now.” The Level Four team also reps a robust comedy crew including Larry David, Molly Shannon and Will Ferrell.
My binge watch Friedman: House Hunters International; Lichtenberg: Naked and Afraid; Rigney: “Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Billions, Ray Donovan. There’s so much good TV now.”
From Chris Hemsworth and Channing Tatum to Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller, Fulton’s roster reads like a hot list of in-their-prime film stars. “We’ve been growing quite a bit with new young talent,” says Fulton, who adds that it’s “fun to help them get set up from the beginning.” One addition is Shailene Woodley, who returns for season two of Big Little Lies; other clients include Rose McGowan, fighter Conor McGregor and YouTube stars Rhett & Link.
One piece of financial advice that never gets old “To always plan for tomorrow.”
Gettleson’s relationship with Plus Capital has been lucrative for clients who have taken stakes in such food companies as Califia Farms and Sweetgreen and mattress firm Casper. “They have social influence and actively shape products and activities,” he says. “It’s not a passive role.” Bad Robot is a client, and he helped its leader, J.J. Abrams, structure his financial and advisory participation in Atom Tickets, a Fandango competitor. He also helped Ava DuVernay acquire her creative space in the Arts District and guided Franklin Leonard through creating the Black List Film Fund with Meridian Entertainment.
Fictional banker you’d trust with your money “Krusty the Clown’s Cayman Island banker.”
As one of relatively few women of color in her profession, Gordon feels a sense of responsibility to boost inclusion in her field. “Hopefully the next young person of color who wants to start his or her own business management firm will at least see that there were other examples along the way,” says the veteran, who launched her boutique 26 years ago. Another unique aspect of Gordon’s background is that she holds a master’s of divinity degree from the King’s University Seminary. “Sometimes you need an extra dose of wisdom on how to handle a situation, or a dose of kindness and care,” says the member of Women in Film’s board of directors, who declines to name or confirm any of her clients (sources tell THR they include Lena Waithe and Nick Cannon).
If I had unlimited funds, I’d buy … “Clean drinking water for all of the children in the USA and around the world.”
New York-based Herrmann reps many of film and television’s most established names, including Scott Rudin, Martin Scorsese, Liam Neeson, Barbara Walters and Maria Bartiromo. But he also works with three very young actors/actresses whom he wouldn’t name. When it comes to plotting the financial strategy for these wunderkinds, the goal is simple: “Set them on a correct course. Make sure that they understand that with the new tax law, we need to analyze the possibility of a loan-out corporation much earlier than in the past,” he explains.
An expensive vacation spot that just isn’t worth the money “Most places on Christmas week!”
Michael Karlin and Mickey Segal
Karlin and Segal rep a diverse set of clients, including the Joan Rivers estate, Bill Maher and NBA star Dwight Howard — but one of their most significant recent financial moves was their own. Their company merged into Focus Financial Partners, a partnership of wealth management firms that Segal says paid “a fair market price” for NKSF&B. “This is a material change in our industry,” he says. “Three years ago there were no buyers for business management companies. Now, there’s a financial exit for those who want one.”
An expensive vacation spot that just isn’t worth the money Karlin: “Yacht trips can cost $200,000 or $300,000 a week, but every client I have says it’s worth the money.” Segal: “Hong Kong.”
Don’t underestimate Kenney because of the size of her boutique, a four-person operation with approximately 15 clients, all in entertainment. It was Kenney whom Tiffany Haddish tapped to handle her business after she shot Girls Trip but before the 2017 hit was released. “It’s wonderful to come into someone’s life when their career starts to take off because you get in there from the beginning before they make mistakes,” says Kenney, who was referred by another client, comedian Alonzo Bodden. Kenney prides herself on the extra touches that her small firm is able to provide, from personal assistance to property management for her clients’ L.A. homes. “Being small, I have flexibility,” she says. “I’m able to spend dedicated face time with each client.”
My binge watch Below Deck Mediterranean
Mark Landesman and Paul Zukowsky
The New York-based duo’s new client Gal Gadot has plenty of DC dollars coming her way with a Wonder Woman sequel on the horizon. When starting a new relationship, Landesman and Zukowsky try to help a client see himself or herself as a mogul in the making and not merely an artist. “Clients come into this business all about ‘the art,’ never realizing they are about to become a business person,” says Zukowsky. “Our job is to not just pay their bills and do their taxes but to also teach them how to conduct good business.” Other clients include Eddie Murphy, Bruce Willis, Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Chris Rock and Tina Fey.
How do you unwind after tax season? Landesman: “Golf.”
Beverly Hills-based Humble Lukanga has a six-month wait-list for new clients. He won’t discuss his growing roster of entertainers and athletes, but THR has learned it includes Insecure creator Issa Rae, television director Melina Matsoukas and NFL wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. "It’s not about managing money as much as it is about managing wellness and helping people become balanced," says the ever-optimistic Lukanga, who was granted political asylum in the U.S. at the age of 11 amid genocide and extreme poverty in Uganda. “We want our clients to be richer, and that has nothing to do with money.”
If I had limitless funds, I'd buy … "land in every third-world country and build sustainable villages with hospitals, schools, farming land and orphanages."
A design enthusiast, McIlwee has signed several new clients this year who also lean toward the visual arts: Instagram stars. Among them are fashionista Mary Lawless Lee, whose HappilyGrey account has nearly 1 million followers, and stylist Jill Jacobs, who dresses Kylie Jenner and others. McIlwee, who also counts American Made actor Caleb Landry Jones and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before star Israel Broussard as clients, says he enjoys the challenge of working with nontraditional stars who have more diversified income opportunities: “It feels like the Wild West out there. It’s changing so fast.”
What’s the trendiest new investment in Hollywood? “Vintage cars. People are looking at them like they are art.”
Meeks’ clientele includes Jerry Bruckheimer, Dick Wolf and Lorenzo di Bonaventura. While just 48, he has a trove of experience from his more than 20 years as a partner at the firm, which is continuing to evolve. “We have been actively investing resources into our people and operations to improve client experience and their peace of mind that their information and wealth is better protected,” says Meeks. One potential investment: adding an office in the Santa Clarita Valley to cut some employees’ commutes.
If I had limitless funds, I’d buy: “The presidency.”
Which fictional banker would you trust with your money? "Gringotts. Only a powerful wizard can break in."
When he’s not attending clients’ royal weddings, Meyer is the go-to guy for musicians, digital stars and onscreen talent like Adam Driver and Kathryn Hahn. Meyer, whose firm has been linked to Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu, wants his clients to keep some sense of financial autonomy. “We usually recommend that clients continue to be involved in and manage their own financial and organizational lives,” he says, adding that the firm’s focus is “addressing big picture issues that can arise over the course of any career or lifetime.”
How do you unwind after tax season? “I like to spend time with my family and enjoy all that our amazing city has to offer.”
Neuman's client list reads like a who's who of box office breakouts and TV giants, including Scarlett Johansson, Zoe Saldana, Ellen DeGeneres and Ryan Murphy. These days, Neuman isn’t just managing his clients’ super-sized incomes — though that’s definitely still part of the job — he’s also helping them become minimoguls running their own cottage industries, not to mention guiding their investments in other startups. “Celebrity capital has become so valuable that the highest-profile people are being approached to invest in Uber or to help attract users to Pinterest,” says the veteran manager who’s been representing A-listers for more than three decades.
Neuman is also THR's inaugural Business Manager Icon, click here to read the full story.
What's one piece of financial advice that never gets old?
"Pay yourself first, and don't invest in a restaurant."
While assisting with everything from taxes to estate planning to insurance, Ross and his firm strive to cultivate a careful balance. “We tend to think that too large of a firm becomes too impersonal and too corporate,” he says. “But if a firm is too small, it would be difficult to stay current.” The firm has retained a loyal clientele (Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Matt LeBlanc, Roland Emmerich) while adding new clients by abiding by the old Hollywood adage of show, don’t tell. “We offer to do some general consulting at first,” he explains. “We want them to get to know us.”
How do you unwind after tax season? “I’m simple. I want to be on a beach or by a pool, and I want to be with my family. I also play in a cover band.”
Stiegemeyer’s predominantly young client base has benefited from the golden age of television. Naya Rivera stars in Step Up: High Water for YouTube, and Taylor Kitsch recently returned to the small screen with Paramount Network’s Waco. “When I was 20 years old, there was very little in terms of TV,” says Stiegemeyer. “Now there’s just so much content.” He also has been busy helping new client Lisa Marie Presley get out from under $16.7 million in debt as she works out her divorce from musician Michael Lockwood.
An expensive vacation spot that just isn’t worth the money: “I recently told a client who was going to spend $100,000 on a seven-day trip to Fiji to just go to the Four Seasons in Santa Barbara and put the other $95,000 in the bank."
In a notoriously press-shy group, Tessler may be the most media-averse — but he’s also one of the most-talked-about. His A-list clients reportedly include Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara and The Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, who are both nearing the finish line on their hit series. Tessler’s firm also has been linked to the likes of Angelina Jolie, Emma Stone and Jason Blum.
This story first appeared in the Oct. 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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