Authors and staff quit agency over new chief executive

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When Caroline Michel agreed to become the chief executive of the talent agency, PFD, it was seen as a triumph for her new employers. She was a leading light of the publishing world who had been lured to the helm of an agency that counts the likes of Tom Stoppard, Ricky Gervais and Keira Knightley among its celebrity clients.

Few could have guessed it would also set off a chain reaction of high-profile departures. But following the announcement that Ms Michel was starting her new job at PFD today, as reported in The Independent last week, several senior staff members have resigned with the intention of starting a rival agency after Christmas.

Among the departing agents were Pat Kavanagh, who is married to novelist Julian Barnes, as well as Anthony Jones and Maureen Vincent. It is now feared that authors and actors will follow suit.

Ruth Rendell, the crime writer who has been represented by Ms Kavanagh for 26 years, said: "I'll stay with Pat wherever she goes. She is not only my agent but a very good friend."

The novelist Robert Harris also announced he was leaving the firm that had represented him for two decades. The author Maureen Freely has also left. Other reported departures include agents Simon Trewin and Caroline Dawnay. Ann Widdecombe, the Tory MP and novelist, stated that she would not be "budging" from having Ms Dawnay as her agent.

Ms Michel's appointment is said to have created some bad feeling as she was brought in over the heads of the PFD management team, while they had been attempting to negotiate a £4m buyout from parent company, CSS Stellar.

Ms Michel, who left William Morris talent agency to join PFD, made her name in publishing, as managing director of Vintage. She said: "I want to draw a line under what has happened and get down to work. I very much hope to persuade everyone to stay."

Apart from representing novelists, directors, composers and actors, PFD also controls the estates of many classic authors including Nancy Mitford, Hilaire Belloc and Evelyn Waugh.

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