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Publicity problems hit talent agency
William Morris makes headlines of its own after Halle Berry and Sarah Michelle Gellar leave.
May 13, 2005: 8:13 AM EDT
Halle Berry, left, and Sarah Michelle Gellar are among the stars who have left the William Morris Agency.
Halle Berry, left, and Sarah Michelle Gellar are among the stars who have left the William Morris Agency.

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - William Morris is reeling from a series of negative gossip items and high-profile defections, according to a report in the New York Times Friday.

Executives at William Morris said they believe that their competitors have been planting false reports in hopes of poaching clients and star agents, according to the paper.

The agency has lost more than a few clients and agents in recent months, including Halle Berry and Sarah Michelle Gellar, indicating that there may be more serious internal problems.

Others who have left include Hylda Queally, agent to Cate Blanchett and Kate Winslet, and Todd Feldman, the agent to director Marc Forster, who went to another agency. Jason Barrett, a top aide to William Morris's chief executive, Jim Wiatt, left to become a manager; Steve Dontanville, an agent, retired; and Michelle Bohan went to a rival company, according to the Times.

"It's no secret that several months ago we initiated a high-level reorganization of the agency, changes that we are very excited about," Chris Petrikin, a William Morris spokesman, told the paper. "In a situation like this, you anticipate and plan for a certain amount of turnover, and that's what we've had. It's neither unusual nor is it anything to be concerned about. The fact is, we're having one of the best years in our history."

As part of the "reorganization" three senior executives and board members left after an internal power struggle and Dave Wirtschafter was named president of the company.

William Morris hired the lawyer Bert Fields to combat reports on Page Six in The New York Post that it was "beleaguered," in financial trouble and hemorrhaging agents and clients.

Fields denied that William Morris was in any financial distress and demanded a retraction of Page Six articles, charging that "the false reports are, of course, calculated to do the agency severe harm."

A spokesman for The New York Post had no comment, according to the report.  Top of page


William Morris
Kate Winslet
Halle Berry
Sarah Michelle Gellar
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