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Michael Kassan Sues Attorney Bryan Freedman for Defamation in Connection with UTA Split

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The latest twist in the battle between UTA and former MediaLink chairman-CEO Michael Kassan is a defamation lawsuit filed by Kassan against UTA attorney Bryan Freedman.

Kassan has sued Freedman for slander and libel stemming from a statement that the lawyer made earlier this week to Deadline, which is a sibling publication to Variety under Penske Media Corp. Kassan and UTA parted ways earlier this month amid a flurry of litigation and arbitration filings and heated accusations from both sides. Kassan’s suit against Freedman centers on the lawyer’s statement to Deadline that “Michael Kassan is a pathological liar,” which was published March 25.

“The complaint represents Michael Kassan’s intention to hold Mr. Freedman responsible for his strategically malicious and defamatory comment,” said Kassan’s attorney Sanford Michelman in a statement. “To render a statement such as he did, illustrates the fact that all Mr Freedman and UTA are doing are trying to block Mr. Kassan from competing by hurting him in the press as alleged in Mr. Kassan’s demand to arbitrate.”

In its claims against Kassan, UTA has asserted that the longtime advertising industry executive was profligate in his spending and misused company funds for his personal expenses. Kassan has accused UTA of violating agreements put in place when the talent agency acquired MediaLink for $125 million in late 2021. Kassan’s suit against Freedman seeks $125 million in damages.

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In a statement, Freedman defended his remark and reiterated the agency’s assertion that Kassan’s activities crossed a line.

“Facts are not defamation. Michael Kassan’s continuous baseless filings and statements are nothing more than an attempt to create a false media narrative and divert attention from his fraudulent activities,” Freedman said. “Today we filed our response rejecting all of Kassan’s arbitration claims. While MediaLink will continue to focus on providing excellent work for its clients, UTA will continue to pursue Kassan for the millions he stole.”

Kassan’s suit asserts that Freedman made the comment in order to hurt Kassan’s chances of launching a new venture. The sides have been in disupte as to whether Kassan was offered a $10 million severance package with a noncompete clause. Kassan maintains it was offered but he turned it down; UTA maintains that no such offer was made.

“This statement by Freedman was malicious and intentional. Stated another way, a non-compete by defamation. Freedman did not just say this to a few people, he said it to countless people via Deadline article so he could inflict maximum damage,” the suit states. “Freedman is not just a sophisticated lawyer and knew what he was doing was illegal but has also been a party to litigation in the past and understands what this strategy could do to a person’s reputation. Freedman broke the law by defaming Kassan, and as an agent of his clients, so too did they.”