In Hollywood, where even behind-the-scenes players seem to compete for attention, ICM talent agent executive Robert Levinson has his priorities straight.
“[Legendary ICM agent] Sylvia Gold always said to me, `There can only be one star, and it better be the one who’s paying you,”‘ said Mr. Levinson, who is executive VP and head of worldwide television for ICM.
That plan is working.
While Mr. Levinson toils in the shadows, ICM is enjoying a banner season, with more shows on network schedules than it’s had in three years, more clients in award-winning shows and high satisfaction among its business partners.
“Bob is low-key, but commands respect,” said Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment. “You want to do business with him. He is fair, equitable, precise.”
Major ICM TV packages include “The Simpsons,” “America’s Next Top Model” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” The agency also has had major success in reality programming with TV producer Rocket Science Laboratories on “Joe Millionaire” and “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance.”
Mr. Levinson, who before joining ICM in 1987 spent years as an executive for advertising agencies, including BBDO in New York, has declined to take on corporate clients-an area where other talent agencies have recently expanded. He said he wants to avoid possible conflicts of interest with agency-signed talent.
“Our [talent] clients pay us to represent their best interests in selling a product,” Mr. Levinson said. “This doesn’t mean we are not in the area of marketing [entertainment] products to corporate clients or advertising agencies. We are involved with every agency and marketing company. “
In the future Mr. Levinson sees ICM germinating more TV projects from nontraditional areas. For instance, CBS’s prime-time “Listen Up” came from sportswriter Tony Kornheiser’s book of the same name, through the agency’s New York literary department. “Whether it’s the talent department, literary department, directors, the host-talent group, syndication, the European markets or reality, I really see my job as putting these elements at the disposal of our [staff],” Mr. Levinson said.
“I ask, `Are we giving them the tools to achieve the most they can?”‘