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Should He Stay Or Should He Go? UTA & Michael Kassan Clash Over Scheme To Keep Exec On For $3M After Accusations Of Broken Contracts, Theft – Update

UPDATE, 7:40 PM: The dogfight between UTA and Michael Kassan has gone today from did the ex-MediaLink CEO resign or was he fired to was he asked to stay on at the agency and for how much dough?

With more filings today and the whole thing looking to end up in arbitration, Kassan’s lawyer Sanford Michelman seemed to blow the wigs off everyone at the 11th hour. After a morning of competing missives, the LA-based attorney this afternoon suddenly announced in a press conference that the Jeremy Zimmer-run UTA had tried to strike a deal to keep the controversial exec on board after he resigned on March 6 or ( depending on who you ask) was fired on March 7.

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To back up this latest turn in the topsy turvy affair, Michelman released part of a March 10 potential term sheet between the parties, that read:

Subject to MK’s execution and non-revocation of and ongoing compliance with the Proposed Settlement Arrangement (including the Repayment and Tax Matters sections below), in lieu of any other consideration, MK to receive the following:  Transition Period (3/1/24 – 6/30/24, subject to early termination described below): ~$667K (~4 months of existing $2M annualized base compensation through 6/30/24), payable in regular installments on the 15th and last day of each month.  Post-Transition Period (7/1/24 – 12/31/26, subject to early termination described below): $2.5M in aggregate base compensation, comprised of $500K base compensation for H2’24 and $1M/year thereafter), payable in regular installments on the 15th and last day of each month.

While admitting there were conversations between UTA and Kasan to keep the embarrassing disintegration of the 2021 $125 million deal the agency made to buy MediaLink private, UTA’s outside counsel Bryan Freedman wasn’t absolving Kassan of anything today.

In fact, quite the opposite.

“Michael Kassan is a pathological liar,” proclaimed the Freedman Taitelman + Cooley attorney to Deadline.

“The document he leaked was predicated entirely on him returning all the money he stole to UTA, giving up all of his day-to-day authority at MediaLink immediately, announcing right away that he would be leaving the company after Cannes and adhering to his post term obligations,” Freedman added. “As part of this, UTA was willing to offer him an extremely reduced sum of money and the ability to save face and spare him and his family from public embarrassment. Once again, he has tried to change the truth to hide the reality of his criminal  behavior, and once again he has failed.”

In the they said, he said this has become, Kassan’s team shot back late Monday

“Desperate people say desperate things, Jeremey Zimmer is now desperate,” exclaimed Sanford Michelman.”

“UTA told the press that Mr. Kassan stole 2.5 million dollars,” he continued. “They are saying he did this after selling his company not once but twice, for over 100 million dollars. That is beyond absurd and again is a pathetic attempt to tarnish his reputation. If this were true, why has UTA not included it in any lawsuit or any demand for arbitration nor have they shared any shred of proof. The reason being of course, it is not true.”

Michelman added: “What is true is that in fact after Mr. Kassan resigned, UTA begged him to stay on as CEO until Cannes and then transition to Founder for the rest of his contract. They even offered him up to three million dollars to do this. What company alleges someone stole 2.5 million dollars but begged them to stay?”

PREVIOUSLY 11:01 AM EXCLUSIVE: Michael Kassan’s team promised late last week they would up the legal ante with UTA unless the agency completely dropped its lawsuit against the resigned/fired (depending on who you ask) MediaLink CEO, and today they did just that.

In a motion to compel arbitration filed this AM (read it here), the executive’s lawyer Sanford Michelman has now requested a May 15 hearing in L.A. Superior Court to erase UTA’s remaining claim to stop Kassan from forming a rival strategic advisory firm to the UTA-owned MediaLink. Kassan left UTA earlier this month in a dispute over money and power. No stranger to corporate intrigue, the controversial Kassan says he resigned on March 6 and forfeited a $10 million payout so he could put together a new company. UTA say Kassan was fired on March 7 after a long probe into his seven figure expenses and other alleged excesses.

On March 12 Kassan moved to have the matter taken to arbitration, as designated by his contract with UTA. Later that day, the agency sued Kassan in open court with a complaint full of sordid details.

RELATED: “Facts Are Not A Smear Campaign”: UTA Replies To Michael Kassan’s Allegations Of “Mudslinging” In Messy Corporate & Financial Misconduct Dispute

Then, on March 21, just over a week after filing a four-claim fraud complaint against Kassan and two days after receiving a bracing letter threatening them with sanctions for said complaint, the Bryan Freedman- represented UTA put a first amended complaint in the LASC docket just focusing on non-compete topic and trying to move everything to arbitration. “The FAC radically alters the claims pled and effectively concedes it was a frivolous filing, it did not correct UTA’s many problems,” today’s motion states.

In what is an increasing messy battle over a 2021 $125 million handshake deal clearly gone very wrong with conflicting claims that Kassan had his hand in the corporate cash cookie jar and UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer was underhanded, to put it mildly, Monday’s early morning motion is fairly straightforward:

Consequently, abiding by the terms of the PSA and mutual and binding agreement to arbitrate, on March 12, 2024, Kassan filed with JAMS, and served, UTA and MediaLink with his “Demand for Arbitration.” After Kassan filed his Demand for Arbitration, UTA filed the instant lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court (“LASC”) riddled with frivolous and false allegations – some of which go so far as to attack Kassan’s wife. The purpose of UTA filing in LASC – knowingly in violation of the UTA-drafted arbitration agreement – was to try to publicly tarnish Kassan’s (and as gross as it is, Mrs. Kassan’s) reputation. Then, after using the lawsuit to garner splashy media attentions with the Complaint’s sensational and knowingly false allegations and claims, following a letter from Kassan’s counsel threatening Sanctions for using this Court as a platform to promulgate a false narrative, immediately thereafter, and only eight days after filing the frivolous lawsuit, UTA filed a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) that dismissed each and every original claim and all contentions of the compensatory, consequential, punitive and exemplary damages from the original Complaint. The FAC, like the UTA’s original Complaint before it, again ignores UTA’s obligation to arbitrate its claims, includes irrelevant and salacious allegations that literally have nothing to do with the relief UTA demands, and even if UTA’s factual allegations were to be believed (and they most certainly should not), does not support the relief UTA demands. Even more egregiously, just two days after filing its FAC, UTA filed a demand for arbitration mirroring each of its dismissed claims from its original Complaint and alleging the exact same factual allegations as those pled in the FAC. These facts demonstrate not just that this case should never have been filed in LASC, but that UTA knowingly did so for an improper purpose. Even now, despite numerous demands to do so, as well as UTA’s effective concession that its claims are arbitrable, UTA has failed to dismiss its FAC and transfer its remaining claims to where they should have been brought in the first place, arbitration.

“For these reasons, the moving parties respectfully request that the Court compel this matter to arbitration, stay the matter pending final resolution of the instant motion, and after issuance of a final order compelling arbitration, dismiss these proceedings,” the motion adds.

UTA’s Freedman wasted no time dismissing the motion as a sideshow in the great drama:

“Michael Kassan not only fails to abide by the partner services agreement but does not even bother to read it,” said the Hollywood pugilist. “Had he done so, he would have seen the exact language in paragraphs 11 and 16 which both provide that injunctive relief in court is expressly warranted to obtain restraining orders while an arbitration is pending. Given his numerous public statements expressing his willingness to continue to violate his contractual requirements, it’s not a surprise that he would intentionally ignore the express language providing the right to obtain injunctive relief in court. Kassan has only himself to blame for the attention his conduct has received by leaking his arbitration demand to the press well before UTA filed its action.”

Kassan’s attorney Michelman had his own take on the latest twist in this tale:

“Jeremy Zimmer only filed a public lawsuit because he wanted to try and mislead people that Michael Kassan was terminated” said the LA-based Michelman. “It was a sad and desperate move that only exposed why Michael Kassan resigned. It took less than 2 weeks for UTA to dismiss their own frivolous lawsuit.”

Today’s filing follows a series of legal grenades being thrown from both sides this weekend. The motion to compel also comes as Deadline can confirm that Kassan is being investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York over tax issues not connected to the MediaLink exec’s exit from UTA and accusations of financial misconduct during his stint there.

Officially, the US Attorney’s office declined comment on any ongoing probe of Kassan.

“Mr Kassan has not been contacted nor is he aware of any investigation,” Kassan’s tax attorney Elliott Speiser told Deadline today. “This is almost certainly just your typical kind of inquiry that arose from the 2022 sale of Medialink to UTA and the taxable income he received from it.”

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