Marvin Josephson, who took a small personal management company with Captain Kangaroo as its client and through several acquisitions built the business into the powerhouse Hollywood talent agency ICM, died Tuesday in Los Angeles, it was announced. He was 95.
In 1968, his Marvin Josephson Associates made a big move when it acquired Ashley Famous Agency for $10 million cash from a company controlled by Steve Ross, who had decided to buy Warner Bros. and had to sell the talent agency because of union rules.
Since Ashley Famous Agency founder Ted Ashley was not to be part of the deal — he was going to Warners, too — the combined agency was renamed International Famous Agency (the parent company that owned IFA continued to be called MJA).
MJA went public in 1971 and later changed its name to Josephson International Inc.
Josephson continued to expand through internal growth and acquisitions that included Chasin Park Citron, a Hollywood boutique firm with several former MCA agents, and Creative Management Associates, which had digested GAC and came over in 1975. The combined talent agency was renamed International Creative Management, with Josephson serving as chairman and CEO.
The agency grew into a thriving operation with offices in Los Angeles, New York and London. It also established a classical music arm called ICM Artists, which represented Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Isaac Stern and other top classical artists and conductors.
Around this time, Josephson personally represented a select group of clients that included former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, actor Steve McQueen, U.S. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, former U.K. prime minister Margaret Thatcher and U.S. Gen. Colin Powell.
In 1988, Josephson led the effort to take JII private in a $72 million deal. Four years later, he gave day-to-day control of ICM to Jeff Berg, Sam Cohn and Jim Wiatt while he continued to represent personal clients. In 2005, the company, now known as ICM Partners, sold a controlling interest to private investor Suhail Rizvi for $75 million.
Born in Atlantic City on March 6, 1927, Josephson entered the U.S. Navy just before the end of World War II after graduating from Atlantic City High School.
He attended Cornell University and went to night school at New York University School of Law, receiving his law degree in 1952. That year, he landed a job in the CBS legal department but exited to start his own personal management company — he was the lone employee — on April 1, 1955.
His first important client was Bob Keeshan, who produced and starred in the groundbreaking CBS morning kids show Captain Kangaroo, which premiered in October 1955 and would run for 29 years.
In the green room before a parade on Thanksgiving eve in 1955 that was featuring a Captain Kangaroo float, Josephson met Charles Collingwood, the CBS newsman who was doing color commentary for the parade.
As his firm became a talent agency, Josephson went on to represent Collingwood and other news personalities and producers like Chet Huntley, Peter Jennings, Frank McGee, Don Hewitt, Reuven Frank and later, Barbara Walters.
In the late 1950s and early ’60s, Josephson’s agency grew by adding agents and clients and hiring Lynn Nesbit to start a literary agency within the talent agency. In the mid-’60s, Josephson’ merged his company with Los Angeles-based Rosenberg Coryell, which represented Bing Crosby and James Garner.
Josephson later bought out his California partners and the company operated under the name Marvin Josephson Associates. The company continued to grow by acquiring agents from MCA when it exited the talent agency business.
All of this set things up for Josephson to buy the Ashley Famous Agency.
His client McQueen introduced him to karate, and Josephson went on to earn a 4th degree black belt in Tang Soo Do. He later took up the Israeli martial art Krav Maga and was given an honorary 4th degree rank.
Josephson served for more than 11 years as chairman of the American charity Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces. He also served on the board of the International Rescue Committee and went on several rescue missions to Ethiopia, Bosnia and Iraq to help with refugee resettlement.
Survivors include his wife, actor, director and producer Tina Chen; children Celia, Claire, Nancy, YiLing and YiPei; 16 grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and his brother, Jack.
Donations in his memory can be made to The Jewish Federations of North America to support families in Ukraine.