The producers: whether creating groundbreaking movies, developing original TV programs, or making soulful music, these 50 power brokers call the shots in America's most dynamic industries.

Author:Dingle, Derek T.
Position:Business Of Entertainment - Cover Story
 
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FROM TIMES SQUARE TO TINSEL TOWN, WHICH PLAYERS REALLY have the juice?

It has been eight years since we've compiled the BLACK ENTERPRISE Top 50 Black Power Brokers in Entertainment. We decided to unveil the current top dogs in film, television, and music because these industries have experienced dramatic changes over the past decade. Among the factors that have altered the landscape are:

* A new generation of players. In 1994, Generation Xers weren't prominent on the list. But today many of them have managed to build a successful track record in the business or significant wattage bright enough to be considered for this list.

* The growing influence of hip-hop culture in film, television, and, of course, music. A number of rap artists have reinvented themselves as multimedia moguls. Also, more studio execs, agents, and lawyers have expanded their effective force and catapulted their careers by signing such talent.

* Technology. The Internet has provided a vehicle for creative development, innovative marketing, and experimentation. Many professionals and entrepreneurs have built Websites as a means of reaching new audiences--in many cases, on an international scale.

Another reason we took this inventory of power has to do with how we spend our consumer dollars. According to Entertainment Index by Nielsen Entertainment in White Plains, New York. African Americans pump millions of dollars into the industry, representing $906.8 million in sales on prerecorded music and $368.9 million in sales on movie theater tickets for the first six months of 2002. Moreover, according to Nielson Media Research, blacks watch 14 hours and 29 minutes of television per week, more than any other group in the nation. Also, in recent years, organizations such as the NAACP have sought to change the abysmal representation of blacks in the industry. Jeff Friday, executive director of the African American Film Festival, says, "In Hollywood, power comes in two forms: executive power in which those at the studio can green-light a film, an area where we are not represented, and artistic power in which actors like Denzel, Ice Cube, and Wesley [Snipes] can get their films made because of their branding and box office draw."

So how did we pick the BE Power Brokers? Our editorial team engaged in extensive research and consulted with a bevy of industry insiders. We selected professionals, executives, and entrepreneurs who hold the levers of control or exercise the most influence in the development and production of music, motion pictures, and broadcast and cable television programs. (See sidebar for criteria.)

This register changed substantially from the original list we developed in 1994. To begin with, 32 individuals who appeared on the previous list didn't make the cut this time around. And there were differences in the number of players found in each sector. Music and television, for instance, have the same number of representatives--16 each. Film had eight representatives. There were six lawyers/agents on the list and four individuals who delve equally into film, television, and music. This group, however, is just as entrepreneurial: roughly 50% of these power brokers own their own record label, production company, artist management business, or law firm. And, collectively and individually, they wield significantly more clout. For example, a new inductee is Richard D. Parsons, CEO of AOL Time Warner, the media leviathan that owns, among other things, Warner Bros. and New Line studios, Elecktra Records, TNT and TBS networks, and Six Flags amusement parks.

But despite the progress shown on our register, African Americans still have a way to go to get their deserved slice of the power pie. The statistics speak volumes: There are no black studio chiefs and only one black CEO of an entertainment network--billionaire Robert Johnson who presides over Viacom's Black Entertainment Television (BET). And there are literally a handful of black agents who negotiate significant deals at major talent agencies such as International Creative Management (ICM).

Our list of power brokers offer the best hope for diversifying the industry's upper ranks and changing the world of entertainment.

SELECTION CRITERIA FOR THE TOP 50 BLACK POWERS BROKERS IN ENTERTAINMENT

those chose have the ability to develop content, negotiate sign on deals, oversee the production process, control budgets, and hire and fire talent.

* They have the ability to green-light projects or influence the process at the highest level, as well as exercise creative and financial control of their projects.

* They are responsible for the bottom line of their project or company.

* Their creative products and services are consistently in demand from the top brass at major television and film studios or record companies.

* They are entrepreneurs who own production companies and record labels and have been given the best terms as it relates to joint ventures or distribution agreements.

* They are power brokers with proven track records and significant influence throughout their industry.

CLARENCE AVANT

Title: Principal, Avant Garde Publishing, Interior Records

Why He's Powerful: He is called "The Godfather" for a reason. Industry insiders say there are only a handful of people who have mentored and groomed as many careers as Avant. It was his deal-making prowess and business acumen that enabled producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to cut lucrative music publishing and production deals. Avant was also instrumental in helping Antonio "L.A." Reid and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds create LaFace Records (which has since been folded into Arista), and he counseled Motown's management team about restructuring its operations when he served as chairman from 1993 to 1998. Although he's in semiretirement, the entrepreneur who conducts business in sweat suits and sneakers, still serves as consigliere to emerging artists as well as industry power brokers. The Godfather still has much juice.

Career Track: A superb deal maker, Avant negotiated the first joint venture between an African American artist and a major record company in the late '60s. By 1971, he formed his own outfit, Sussex Records, and signed popular artists such as Bill Withers, Dennis Coffey, and The Presidents. The label became so successful it was ranked among the BE 100s. Shortly after, Avant purchased KAGB-FM, becoming one of the first blacks to own an FM radio station. In the '80s, he launched Tabu Records.

Big Break: The North Carolina native began his career 36 years ago, managing the careers of notables such as jazz organist Jimmy Smith and composer Lalo Schifrin.

STEPHANIE ALLAIN

Title: President of Production, Jim Henson Pictures

Age: 43

Education: B.A., University of California, Santa Cruz

Why She's Powerful: Allain is in charge of The Muppets. Don't laugh. The Muppets represent a multi-billion-dollar franchise. As the president of production for Jim Henson Pictures, a joint venture between Jim Henson Productions and Sony Pictures Entertainment, Allain is calling the shots in development and production of 10 to 15 films over the next five years.

Career Track: The New Orleans native got her start in motion pictures as a story analyst for Warner Bros., Twentieth Century Fox, and Creative Artists Agency. She is credited with bringing John Singleton to Columbia (Boyz N the Hood, Poetic Justice, and Higher Learning collectively grossed $123 million). In 1996 she moved to the Jim Henson Company and, among other projects, served as executive producer of the 1999 hit Muppets From Space, which grossed $127 million.

Big Break: Becoming a story analyst for major motion picture houses.

STEPHEN D. BARNES

Title: Partner, Bloom, Hergott, Diemer & Cook

Age: 49

Education: B.A., University of Southern California; J.D., Harvard Law

Why He's Powerful: As a partner in the prominent entertainment law firm Bloom, Hergott, Diemer & Cook, Barnes' clients include, among others, Babyface, Snoop Dogg, and Chris Rock. He sits on the board of a number of charitable and nonprofit organizations, including a national scholarship competition for law students, and holds a conference during Grammy week for members of the Recording Academy and students.

Career Track: In 1989, Barnes accepted a partnership with Bloom, Hergott, Diemer & Cook. He gives frequent lectures at law schools and universities.

Big Break: Upon graduating from Harvard, Barnes began his career in entertainment law when he formed a firm, Nelson, Barnes & Sheehan, with two other young lawyers.

CARL BEVERLY

Title: Senior Vice President, Drama Development and Current Programming, Universal Television

Age: 30

Education: B.S., Business University of Southern California; J.D., University of Southern California

Why He's Powerful: His duties include developing projects and shepherding Universal's new slate of dramas for the upcoming season, including American Dreams, Robbery Homicide Division, and Mister Sterling. Beverly also oversees the current series The Agency and The District, which air on CBS.

Career Track: After working for three years in the business and legal affairs department of Warner Chappell Music, Beverly joined Sony Pictures Entertainment. At Sony, Beverly worked on the desk of Chairman/CEO Peter Guber, where he was exposed to the areas of marketing, distribution, and production. While in law school, Beverly began working for the president of Columbia Tri-Star Television and upon graduation was promoted to manager of drama development. Prior to working for Universal Television, Beverly was responsible for the development of several NBC series.

Big Break: Beverly began his career in the entertainment industry as an intern for A&M records.

MARK CHEATHAM

Title: Vice President, Urban Contemporary Music, International Creative Management (ICM)

Age: 42

Education: B.A., Southern Illinois University

Why He's Powerful: Cheatham is one of the few African American talent agents in the entertainment...

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