MediaLink founder Michael Kassan sues UTA attorney for defamation amid heated legal battle

Michael Kassan, chairman and chief executive of Media Link LLC
Michael Kassan, chairman and chief executive of Media Link LLC, attends the 2023 CES event in Las Vegas on Jan. 5, 2023.
(Bridget Bennett / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The legal battle between United Talent Agency and its former partner Michael Kassan intensified this week, with Kassan filing a defamation lawsuit against the Beverly Hills agency’s legal counsel.

Kassan accused UTA’s attorney Bryan Freedman of libel and slander, citing Freedman’s quote in a Deadline article in which he called Kassan “a pathological liar.” Kassan is seeking monetary damages of at least $125 million as well as punitive damages and other costs.

“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,” said Kassan’s attorney Sanford Michelman in a statement.


UTA partner Michael Kassan, who joined the firm in 2021, filed legal action against the talent agency this week. UTA hit back with its own lawsuit, alleging that Kassan fraudulently wasted millions of dollars to fund his lavish lifestyle.

March 13, 2024

In response, Freedman on Thursday hit back against Kassan, saying “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 in a statement on Thursday. “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 and UTA are in a bitter legal dispute that has captured the entertainment industry’s attention, with each accusing the other of breaching a contract related to the $125 million sale of media and market advisory firm MediaLink, which Kassan founded, to UTA.

UTA contends that it thought it was striking a partnership with a reputable businessman. But over the last two years, the agency said, it had learned that Kassan’s spending was out of control and accused him of “wasting millions of UTA’s dollars on his lavish personal lifestyle.”

Kassan, for his part, said that UTA was well aware of his spending habits and that his firm has continued to be profitable during its tenure within UTA. He alleges that UTA did not follow the terms of the deal, such as a promise that UTA‘s marketing group would report to him.

Michelman, Kassan’s attorney, alleges that while UTA was benefiting from MediaLink by getting free media consulting and introductions, MediaLink was not benefiting from the relationship.


“The integration just wasn’t working,” Michelman said in a press briefing on Monday, referring to MediaLink’s acquisition by UTA. “Michael Kassan was realizing this was not a two-way street. This was a bike path and a highway. UTA was a highway to grab the benefits of MediaLink and MediaLink was getting none in reverse. The integration was a disaster.”

UTA, in legal filings and public statements, has denied Kassan’s allegations. Freedman, in a previous statement, said that Kassan’s claims against UTA had no merit and are an effort to distract “from the misappropriation of company funds that led to his termination.” In one filing, the agency alleged that Kassan had a “tendency to operate within ‘gray areas’ and to usurp corporate opportunities and resources for his own personal gain.”

United Talent Agency expands its branding business by buying Medialink for $125 million.

Dec. 15, 2021

Kassan said he resigned on March 6 and waived his $10 million severance package as part of his contract to have the right to compete after leaving the firm.

“Knowing that Kassan’s profession consists of providing important strategic advice to the largest companies in the world, on behalf of his clients, Freedman took aim at the heart of Kassan’s livelihood and profession and engaged in a sharp-shooting character assassination plan to further the scheme of trying to create a non-compete by defamation,” Kassan said in his defamation lawsuit against Freedman.

In legal documents, UTA has said that Kassan would not be able to exercise his stated right to compete if he was terminated with cause.

Freedman said in an earlier statement to The Times that UTA fired Kassan on March 7 and “made aware well before that UTA had grounds to fire him.”


Times staff writer Meg James contributed to this report.