The troubled literary agency Peters, Fraser and Dunlop (PFD), which represents some of the biggest names in the arts, literature and showbusiness, has allegedly been hit by up to 21 resignations according to a blog by one of its leading agents.
PFD's parent company CSS Stellar denied that as many as 21 agents had handed in their notice. But, in a blog to keep his clients up to date with what is happening at the firm, Robert Kirby, who looks after Ricky Gervais and Ewan McGregor among others, spilled the beans on the resignations.
Those who have quit include Keira Knightley's agent Lindy King, Pat Kavanagh, the wife of the novelist Julian Barnes and Nick Hornby's agent Caroline Dawnay. The walkout follows a failed attempt by agents to stage a £4m management buyout from CSS Stellar, the global sports and entertainment marketing group. The agents plan to set up a new agency under the name United Agents.
David Buchler, the chairman of CSS Stellar, has already admitted six agents have handed in their resignations. Yesterday, he said that reports of 21 resignations were "not true", but admitted that more people had handed in their notice.
In his most recent post on Monday, Mr Kirby wrote that he believed: "To date, 21 agents have resigned (with two today and three more tomorrow) and are committed to the new agency. Poor David [Buchler], his battle is lost, though he doesn't know it yet. Onward United Agents!"
Companies House documents reveal that at least 10 PFD directors have resigned in recent months, while industry sources suggested reports of 21 resignations were accurate.
Last month, CSS Stellar parachuted in a new chief executive – the publishing doyenne Caroline Michel, from the rival talent agency William Morris.
Michel's intention is to turn PFD into an international agency along the lines of William Morris and ICM, forging cross-media deals between books, film and television.
On Friday, CSS Stellar announced losses of £1.1m in the first sixth months of the year. Explaining the results, Mr Buchler said: "I want to reassure shareholders about the financial implications of employees leaving PFD. The speculation that this will cause a reduction in profits either this year or next year is inaccurate.
"A substantial proportion of PFD's income stream is contractually protected for the foreseeable future."
In an earlier post on his blog, Mr Kirby wrote: "I hope that when David Buchler sees before him all our resignation letters he and his investors will realise that they run the risk of destroying one of the best agencies in Europe and being the proud owners of 25 empty offices, a dozen filing cabinets and the rump of a once fine agency. I can't believe that such an outcome is in his or their interests."
Many of PFD's famous clients, including the bestselling author Robert Harris, have insisted they will stay with their agents when they leave to set up a new company. While their existing contracts will remain with PFD, agents could draw up new contracts for authors that choose to join them in the new company.
Next week is one of the biggest events in the publishing calendar, the Frankfurt Book Fair, where the leaving agents, still serving their notice, will be striking deals for a company they will soon no longer work for.