UTA, Michael Kassan at War as Agency and MediaLink Chief Plot Legal Action

In a dueling war of words, the talent agency UTA and the influential founder of the strategic advisory firm MediaLink are locked in a dispute that involves Michael Kassan’s exit from the company, with Kassan saying he resigned March 6, and the agency contesting that it terminated him for cause March 7.

UTA says that it axed Kassan, the founder of the firm, which the talent agency acquired in 2021 for $125 million.

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“Michael Kassan was terminated for cause by UTA on March 7th, 2024, following a thorough and exhaustive third-party investigation into misappropriation of company funds,” a UTA spokesperson tells The Hollywood Reporter. “We filed a lawsuit against him today and look forward to presenting the facts in court.”

An attorney for Kassan, Sanford Michelman, contended that the executive resigned and was taking legal action against the agency over how MediaLink was run. (Michelman’s full statement is below.) Since the sale of MediaLink to UTA, Kassan has remained at the company, leading the division as a UTA partner, until now.

UTA said that it would be initiating legal proceedings of its own against Kassan, though no such filings were available as of writing.

MediaLink is known for its expertise and connections in the media, entertainment and technology sectors, particularly with companies associated with the advertising world. Kassan himself has been a frequent speaker at ad industry events like CES, and at Cannes Lions, the French marketing festival that MediaLink has been hoping to acquire since late last year.

The company provides the strategy and consulting services that the big shops like McKinsey or BCG offer, but tailored more specifically for media and advertising clientele. It is also known for leaning on Kassan’s Rolodex by arranging meetings between executives and businesses, at the confabs like CES, but also in New York, London, Los Angeles and elsewhere.

Michelman’s full statement regarding his client, Kassan, is below:

Michael Kassan agreed to sell MediaLink, the company he founded, to UTA because he was led to believe it would be a great partnership for both companies. However, it became clear that Jeremy Zimmer had a secret plan to not honor the contract, and when Michael confronted him, Zimmer refused to honor the deal. As one would expect, when Zimmer broke promises and began to impede the success of MediaLink, Michael was left with no other option other than to resign and file this lawsuit against Zimmer and UTA for breach of contract.  

Michael decided to make the deal with UTA in the first place because the contract he negotiated specifically called out that Michael would oversee the day-to-day operations and long-term strategy of UTA marketing, and Michael would be given a special expense budget of $950k to spend as he saw fit. However, shortly after the deal was finalized, Zimmer began to walk back these specific parts of their contract. 

First, Zimmer promoted the heads of UTA Marketing to partner in exchange for knowingly violating the contract, and therefore ensuring MediaLink did not in fact oversee their day-to-day operations or long-term strategy as promised. Next,  Zimmer cut the very expense account that Michael negotiated to receive in his contract. Had Michael known Zimmer would not honor their deal, he never would have done it.

Michael’s first priority is the success and continued growth of MediaLink, a company he started more than 17 years ago, and he looks forward to ensuring its continued success in the industry.

March 12, 9 p.m. Updated with Kassan attorney’s statement.

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