UTA Amends Michael Kassan Lawsuit: Most Claims Move to Arbitration But Agency Doubles Down on Financial ‘Misconduct’ Accusations

United Talent Agency has amended its lawsuit against former MediaLink chief Michael Kassan — striking its initial claims against its former partner to move those grievances to arbitration. The amended complaint offers new details of allegations of financial mismanagement against the advertising industry’s famous matchmaker and fixer, who blasts the litigation in a statement to Variety as a “smear” effort.

UTA maintains that Kassan “erased any line between his personal and business expenses” during his two plus years with the company following UTA’s acquisition of MediaLink for $125 million in December 2021. UTA’s amended complaint drops multiple claims against him but accuses Kassan of threatening to breach the noncompete clause in his contract. The complaint asserts that Kassan’s “foolish boasts” to media outlets that he planned to launch new business ventures amounted to threats to violate his agreement. News of the explosive split between Kassan and UTA erupted on March 12 with Variety’s exclusive report.

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Kassan, meanwhile, cited UTA’s “broken promises” during his tenure and effort to trash his reputation through the litigation offering detail on his famously lavish spending habits.

“Resigning from MediaLink was one of the toughest decisions I have ever had to make,” Kassan said. “But, after two years of navigating Jeremy Zimmer’s broken promises, his insistence on increasing pricing on clients, and his attempts to cut employee compensation, I felt it was the right thing to do. I am pleased UTA has now dismissed every claim against me as their frivolous lawsuit was nothing more than an attempt to smear me over the reasons I resigned.”

UTA attorney Bryan Freedman said the decision to drop lawsuit claims — for constructive fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of duty of loyalty — were merely procedural and that he is moving to private arbitration while pursuing injunctive relief and damages in state court.

“The court action has been amended to bring injunctive relief claims based on Kassan’s admission that he intends to violate the agreement and engage in competitive activity,” Freedman said. “Additional claims for monetary relief have been brought in arbitration as we continue to discover additional theft and other financial misconduct. Not a day goes by that we don’t learn more about Kassan’s true nature. We will continue to amend the pleadings to reflect the truth. We are not dropping claims we are adding to them and putting all the monetary claims into a separate arbitration.”

However, the amended complaint also came two days after Kassan’s attorney’s threatened to seek sanctions against UTA for filing a frivolous lawsuit.

“UTA frivolously filed a lawsuit and after receiving a letter setting forth a basis for sanctions. UTA then dropped every single claim against Mr. Kassan. UTA then amended their complaint, seeking a restraining order not to compete, which will also be dismissed shortly because Mr. Kassan has the right to compete. In fact, he paid $10,000,000 in order to do so,” said Kassan attorney Sanford Michelman.

The lawyer refers to a severance package with noncompete clauses worth $10 million, which UTA offered Kassan before asserting that he was fired for mismanagement of company funds. UTA disputes this offer.

In the complaint first filed March 12 in Los Angeles Superior Court, UTA accused Kassan of using company funds for “clearly improper personal expenses” and for spending “a small fortune on luxury travel.” The amended complaint adds detail to earlier allegations that Kassan used UTA funds to pay for an apartment for his driver, a credit card for his wife and other personal expenses.

“In 2022, Kassan engineered a scheme to divert MediaLink funds to his personal corporation. Specifically, Kassan abused his position as MediaLink CEO by ordering MediaLink’s most senior finance executive to pay what Kassan described as “bi-monthly installments” of the $950,000 “Special Expenses” budget to MKI, his S-Corporation,” the complaint states.

The dissolution of the business relationship came down to a conflict over spending, especially on luxury travel, gifts and perks. Kassan also claims he was quickly “siloed” in the UTA acquisition and given none of the power in his promised scope as a leader. Kassan strongly maintains that he had a contractual discretionary fund built in to the MediaLink budget for such spending. Kassan’s team also asserts that UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer was a passenger on some of those private jet rides.

(Pictured: Michael Kassan, Jeremy Zimmer)

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