WMA Vs. New York Post

A story published in the New York Post about the “beleaguered ” William Morris Agency has caused quite a stir. Enough, in fact, for the agency to hire a lawyer and demand a retraction on grounds of libel.

The May 8th “William Morris Eyes HQ Sale” story, published in the “Page Six” section of the tabloid, said WMA would hold an “emergency meeting” in Santa Monica, Calif., to “stop the bleeding at the troubled ten percent-ery.”

WMA attorney Bert Fields called that notion “absolute garbage.”

“There is a meeting at Shutters (on the Beach hotel), but it’s their standard procedure motion picture group retreat – like every corporation has from time to time,” Fields told Pollstar. “It is not an ‘emergency meeting’ and they’re not ‘beleaguered’ or ‘bleeding.'”

The article also used an unnamed source who said WMA is so desperate for cash that it may be planning to sell its Beverly Hills, Calif., headquarters. The agency vehemently denied any such thing.

“That’s ridiculous,” the attorney said. “They have hugely valuable pieces of property and have no intentions of selling it.

“[WMA] is in great financial condition. They’re having one of their best financial years ever, and to circulate this pile of garbage is deplorable.”

Fields added that the property – comprising two buildings – is actually under renovation. The agency will take temporary quarters elsewhere until it is time to move back in.

“The Post was told that every one of those statements were false before they printed [the story] anyway,” Fields said.

He sent a letter to the tabloid May 10th demanding a retraction of false and misleading statements. He has also advised WMA to file a libel suit against the paper and is eager to find the Post‘s secret source.

“When we’re able to prove who did that, we’ll go after that person with a very serious lawsuit,” Fields said, adding that he has an idea of who it was.

Some reports have suggested the source could be associated with another agency.

Meanwhile, another focus of the Post article was WMA’s “mass exodus” of clients and agents following agency president Dave Wirtschafter’s controversial interview with The New Yorker in March. Wirtschafter’s remarks about several clients apparently caused the firm to lose Halle Berry and Sarah Michelle Gellar.

The Post named several other WMA defections including agents Hylda Queally, Jason Barret, Todd Feldman, Steve Dontanville and Michelle Bohan – each of whom reportedly took a host of successful clients with them.

The paper also hinted at the possible departure of Russell Crowe agent George Freeman. But in his letter to the Post, Fields assured that Freeman has no intention of leaving.

At press time, the Post had not responded to Fields’ letter, the lawyer said.

Mitchell Peters