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UTA & Partner Michael Kassan Part Ways In Dispute Over Finances; MediaLink Founder Joined Agency In 2021 – Update

(Updated with more details) Michael Kassan, CEO of MediaLink, the strategic advisory firm acquired by UTA in 2021, is out.

While both sides say that money is at the heart of the dispute, they differ on almost every other aspect of the situation – including how it ended. Kassan resigned on March 6 with good reason, under the dictates of his agreement with the agency. However, UTA insist that they fired Kassan the next day after an stringent investigation.

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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,” an UTA spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday night. “We filed a lawsuit against him today and look forward to presenting the facts in court.”

Kassan first filed today a $25 million action seeking to take the matter behind closed doors into arbitration. Later Tuesday, UTA sued Kassan for fraud in a dense lawsuit filed today in Los Angeles Superior Court.

“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,” Kassan’s lawyer Sanford Michelman of Michelman and Robinson said in part in a statement tonight. “However, it became clear that [UTA CEO] 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.” (Read the full statement below.)

UTA purchased the MediaLink from UK-based Ascential PLC for around $125 million in late 2021. As part of the transaction, Kassan became a partner in UTA while retaining his CEO post at MediaLink, the company he founded in 2003.

MediaLink’s clients have included blue chip companies of the likes of Disney and AT&T. Following the acquisition, UTA Marketing was retitled as UTA Entertainment & Culture Marketing, and became a part of MediaLink.

Here’s the full statement from Kassan’s lawyer:

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.

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