George Clooney got the Italian villa, but he lost the agent.
Such is the shakedown of what's destined to be known as Clooneygate--a deal that began as a seemingly straight-forward real-estate transaction and ended with one of Hollywood's power brokers looking for new offices.
According to reports today, Clooney fired longtime agent Michael Gruber in a dispute over $250,000 that Gruber reputedly sought for hooking up his A-list client with the owners of a fancy spread on Italy's Lake Como.
In the aftermath, Gruber resigned Tuesday from Creative Artists Agency, the top talent agency that he called home and where he repped the likes of rapper/actor/writer Ice Cube and director Brett Ratner, in addition to Clooney.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Gruber's resignation was of the do-it-or-else variety. The agency concluded that his behavior in the Clooney affair was "unacceptable," a source told the paper.
Clooney and Gruber's association dated back to 1994, when Clooney was a venerable TV actor on the cusp of magazine-cover fame with the debut of ER, and Gruber was an exec at the William Morris Agency. Clooney went on to grace numerous magazine covers; Gruber went on to CAA--both stayed together--until two weeks ago.
In a statement, CAA termed Gruber's resignation a resignation and wished its former charge "all the best in his future plans."
All of Gruber's clients, including Clooney, were expected to remain with CAA, the onetime fiefdom of the onetime chiefdom Michael Ovitz.
Clooney, through his rep, has declined comment on the matter.
In various reports, Gruber downplayed the reported waves with the Perfect Storm star.
"This was a situation where I introduced friends to George," Gruber said in Daily Variety. "While a finder's fee was discussed, and disclosed to Clooney, it was never expected, and it was never received."
To the Times, Gruber, an executive producer on Ice Cube's comedy, Next Friday, said he chose to leave CAA "to move on to something else."
But unnamed sources tell the papers that Clooney became miffed when he learned Gruber was trying to net himself a six-figure fee for setting up the 10-figure villa deal. Much like CAA, Clooney deigned Gruber's reputed actions "inappropriate" and cut him loose, the Times reported.
In happier news, Clooney did end up with the spiffy Italian digs, purchased for an estimated $10 million, according to the Times. No word if his new agent has visited yet.