Business Manager Steve Savitsky Quietly Counsels Hollywood's Elite and Keeps Calm Amid Chaos

Steve Savitsky
Photographed by Victoria Wall Harris

“Don’t be afraid to say no to a client at the risk of them being upset with you. No one is being paid to be a yes man, or yes woman in this business,” says Steve Savitsky, photographed Sept. 24 in Los Angeles.

The Hollywood Reporter's 2020 Business Manager Icon recipient talks about following in his father's footsteps and avoiding "pilots and premieres."

Steve Savitsky’s clients routinely make headlines for landing eye-popping overall deals, winning Emmys and dominating the global box office, but he has no interest in sharing their spotlight. "My clients know, as much as I wish them all the success in the world, I am not the type of person who needs to be invited to pilots and premieres," says Savitsky, who in a business that puts a premium on privacy, remains one of the most tight-lipped. It’s a big part of the reason The Hollywood Reporter chose him as this year’s Business Manager Icon, and why he’s so respected in the industry.

"He is so protective of his clients," says CAA agent Brett Loncar, who has known Savitsky since high school and has worked closely with him on shared clients for more than a decade. "I don’t know, outside of my world, who he represents. Steve has never shared who he works with. It speaks to the kind of person he is. Discretion is everything."

Adds WME partner Tom Wellington, “Steve is an amazing strategic thinker for our shared clients and helps his folks accomplish dreams big and small. He’s honorable and thoughtful and a fun lunch (in more normal times). What more do you want?!”

Savitsky, 55, is a second-generation business manager who was born on Long Island but moved to Beverly Hills when he was 8. His father, George Savitsky, in the early '90s founded the firm Steve now runs — Savitsky Satin Bacon & Bucci — but Steve didn’t set out to follow in his father’s footsteps. The UC Santa Barbara grad started out in public accounting at a firm in Menlo Park, and may have stayed on that track if he and his wife hadn’t considered moving to Portland, Oregon, in 1994. George wasn’t thrilled about that prospect, so he persuaded Steve to fly down to discuss a future in business management.

"I had never been to my dad’s office," Savitsky recalls. "I never worked for him, never interned with him. I always wanted to chart my own territory and do my own thing."

He decided to give it a shot and, in the 26 years since that meeting, Savitsky has worked hard to forge his own path. "That just made me work harder, frankly, to create and develop my own practice and build my own name recognition and reputation," he adds.

Outside the office, Savitsky has two adult children who are living at home during the pandemic and recently celebrated his 30th wedding anniversary with his wife, Jenny.

Savitsky’s core practice these days is centered around showrunners, a specialty he can trace back to working with a couple of writers on a little show called Friends when he first started. "It became a phenomenon," he says. "It created a little bit of expertise for me in the literary world and opened the door for me to lawyers, agents, managers and even other potential clients through referrals."

Watching those clients grow and helping them attain financial independence is a point of pride. Says Savitsky, "Once someone has achieved a level of financial security, it’s just making sure they don’t need to get rich twice."

In order to do that, he has to say no — something clients aren't always thrilled about. But Savitsky isn't being paid to be a yes man; he's hired to protect their interests. “Steve is very smart and has a tremendous breadth of knowledge and experience,” says Michael Gendler. “Equally important, he cares deeply about his clients’ well-being. He is a great partner and resource, particularly when strategizing about tax and complex financial issues.”

Notes talent manager John Carrabino: "Steve is the consummate professional who just happens to have wonderful bedside manner, both as a business manager and as a human being. Steve checks every box."

That bedside manner came in handy this spring, when the novel coronavirus upended business in Hollywood and the country at large. "There was a lot of fear," says Savitsky. "Our role at that point is to try to present kind of a calming influence to the clients because they don't need a panicky business manager. That's the last thing they need."

Even in non-pandemic times, Savitsky isn't the type to overreact to the problems he's presented with, according to CAA's Ann Blanchard. “He provides wildly personal attention and a wise counsel in times of stress," she says. "I have seen him do this in the event of a fire, which is such a challenging life event; if Steve can handle a home fire with aplomb, he can handle anything.”

Goodman Genow partner Michael Schenkman also lauds Savitsky for staying grounded despite his success. "Beyond having built an amazing business and reputation among his clients and other community professionals over the years, Steve has managed to strike an admirable balance between the daily grind, charitable endeavors and a quality lifestyle," Schenkman says. "He is respectful to those he works for, those he works with and, most importantly, those individuals who work for him."

Savitsky is the first to say employees are his company’s most valuable asset, and he empowers them to make their own decisions. Chris Bucci, who began co-managing the firm in 2017 at age 31, says that despite being the boss, Savitsky is the ultimate team player. "This type of leader allows us to truly embrace our motto: ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.' "

A version of this story first appeared in the Oct. 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.