EXCLUSIVE UPDATE 7 PM: I can now reveal the identity of Jeff Berg’s principal investor and financial partner. His name is Jahm Najafi, a former Salomon Bros banker active in real estate and private equity with investments in diverse companies and brands. According to news reports, he isn’t in the deal-making stratosphere, but the CEO of Phoenix-based private equity firm Najafi Companies is in the mix of many high-profile deals. MORE BELOW
EXCLUSIVE 1:54 PM: Inside 1801 Century Park East on the entire 23rd floor, Jeff Berg‘s new full-service Resolution agency capitalized with about $200 million is opening its doors on Monday. The offices are still being painted and the bathrooms are a work in progress. But the longtime ICM Chairman at age 65 just moved into the new space this weekend now that the phones and Internet are up and running and the conference room is finished. Today he’s calling clients. He’s already more than a week ahead of schedule. Over the next six months, Hollywood and New York and Nashville will witness a series of announcements about agents being hired from the top tenpercenteries and midlevel executives being culled from the Industry. Most are still in secret negotiations on Resolution contracts, others are signing non-disclosure agreements, several are in the process of being raided, and still more are daily dialing Berg to inquire about coming over. Their own companies don’t know they’re even contemplating departures. There hasn’t been a major full-service agency start-up like this since Endeavor was formed in 1995 by four former ICM agents who left Berg et al in a midnight stealth. Resolution will keep making headlines as Berg slowly builds his film/TV/talent/literary/music/publishing/digital tenpercentery to an anticipated staffing level of 35 agents plus support staff in LA, 25 agents in NYC, and 10 agents in Nashville. He’s still not settled on his Manhattan office, looking at a variety of spaces in Midtown, Downtown, Chelsea. “He’ll figure that out,” an insider tells me.
It only took him 8-to-10 weeks to set up Resolution doing it primarily by mobile phone, a gmail account, and temporary digs. Berg already has Resolution’s executive infrastructure put together: his COO will be his new partner, former music agent Jeff Franklin, CFO will be former William Morris Agency Finance Director Laura Li, and chief counsel will be former Universal Business Affairs’ Jonathan Gumpert (father of Andrew Gumpert who runs business affairs at Sony Pictures). Still to come is a “people person” senior agent who will function as the catalyst to help keep morale at a high level — because no one knows better than Iceberg what his reputation was and still is. I understand that Berg and Franklin went far with a top CAA senior agent who ultimately stayed put.