2:02pm PT by Matthew Belloni
WME-John Ferriter Arbitration Set for Oct. 19 (Exclusive)
Fallout from the cutthroat 2009 merger of two of Hollywood's most powerful talent agencies is about to land in front of a judge.
John Ferriter, the one-time William Morris board member who boasts a client list including Piers Morgan, The X Factor host Steve Jones and Drew Pinsky, left the agency and sued for $25 million in the wake of its takeover by Ari Emanuel's Endeavor. Now The Hollywood Reporter has learned that Judge Stephen Lachs, who is overseeing the private arbitration of the case, has set an Oct. 19 start date for a two-week proceeding to determine whether WME, as well as partners Emanuel, Rick Rosen and Mark Itkin, marginalized Ferriter and eventually ran him out of the agency.
The case already has featured depositions of several top WME agents and former WMA head Jim Wiatt as well as six days of testimony by Ferriter. And the witness list for the closed-door arbitration could include Emanuel and blogger Nikki Finke, who Ferriter believes wrote nasty articles about him at the behest of WME brass.
At issue in the case is whether Ferriter, the only WMA partner to vote against the April 2009 merger of the storied William Morris with the upstart Endeavor, was fired despite a record of stellar performance or whether he made it known to his partners that he was quitting. Days after the merger was approved over Ferriter's opposition, he entered the hospital and nearly died from a blood clot that led to a Penicillin-resistant MRSA infection. When he returned to the agency in July of that year, Ferriter says he was targeted by new management for elimination.
He says he was denied one of his two assistants, saw his subscriptions to THR and other magazines cut off and was forced to cede power in the unscripted department to WME partners including Sean Perry and Lance Klein.
Sources say Ferriter and Emanuel and other top WME agents also clashed.
WME attorneys, led by Patricia Glaser and Kerry Garvis Wright, argue that on Oct. 19, 2009, Ferriter -- who had been bad-mouthing the new WME -- asked his lawyer to tell the agency he was resigning, a call that led to a WME board announcement that Ferriter wanted out. But Ferriter, represented by his sister, litigator Patricia Kramer, says he never resigned and was working on behalf the agency until he was booted amid a trashing on Finke's blog.
He has since become a manager at Octagon, but the WME exit has cost him millions, he claims. "This isn't just about money," says a source. "John has taken this thing so personally. He's become obsessed with this case." Attorneys for WME and Ferriter declined to comment.