ON FRIDAY, MARCH 22, MR. ABATE trudged into a courtroom in lower Manhattan to square off against ICM lawyers at a hearing in front of Judge Peter K. Leisure.
Much of the acrimonious debate that followed more or less boiled down to one contested issue: Did Mr. Abate quit his job? Or was he fired?
During the hearing, under examination by ICM lawyer A. Michael Weber, Mr. Abate admitted that he had been in contact with Endeavor agents for months gauging their interest in forming a book division. Before turning down ICM’s offer, Mr. Abate said he spoke on several occasions to Nancy Josephson—a former colleague of Mr. Abate’s at ICM who had been fired in 2006 and subsequently joined Endeavor. “She said a lot of people there are book people,” said Mr. Abate.
“Your honor, let’s be candid here,” replied ICM’s Mr. Weber. “This wasn’t a friendly conversation about ‘Gee whillikers, aren’t books interesting?’”
About a week or two before he turned down ICM’s offer, Mr. Abate said, he had received a phone call at home from Ari Emanuel. Mr. Abate denied that Mr. Emanuel made him any specific job offer at the time. According to Mr. Abate, they had simply talked about Endeavor’s theoretical interest in books.
“Did you discuss going to the library together to get some books?” said Mr. Weber.
At one point, Mr. Abate rationalized his inability to remember specifics. “You don’t work as an agent,” said Mr. Abate. “But there’s a little joke among us called ‘agent’s brain’: We deal with hundreds of issues every day, and it’s really hard to remember anything.”
Eventually, like countless writers and actors before him, Judge Leisure lost patience with “agent’s brain.”
“You have to be careful,” the judge warned Mr. Abate. “Your lack of memory on things that were only 30 to 60 days before surprised me …. You’re wasting my time.”
Throughout the hearings, which lasted over two days, Mr. Abate continued to portray himself as a victim, a man who was caught up in the middle of a long-standing, acrimonious war between the L.A. offices of two rival companies; ICM’s legal team continued to portray him as an ungrateful employee who unlawfully broke his contract.
By the end of the hearings, Judge Leisure had rejected ICM’s request to prohibit Mr. Abate from working elsewhere. But as for the claim of damages, for the time being, the case remains in arbitration. The parties are due back in court later this year, on Nov. 15.
In the meantime, Mr. Abate is now working at Endeavor. In 2006, he co-wrote young-adult novel called The Taker, which he published under the pseudonym J.M. Steele. The Taker continues to be represented by ICM.