The Listener

Entertainment lawyer Stephen Weizenecker on the pitfalls of fame

Published in 2007 Georgia Rising Stars — October 2007

Stephen G. Weizenecker started out managing rock bands in high school in Clearwater, Fla. Twenty years later he’s still managing entertainers—singer T-Boz, actor Kyle Massey, football player Ronnie Brown and former NBA star Dominique Wilkins—now they’re just a little more famous.
 
“My clients are constantly creating art, which lasts much longer than what lawyers usually do,” says the of-counsel attorney with Greenberg Traurig in Atlanta. “A lawyer makes a case and sues somebody. The case ends, and no one remembers it. Here you represent someone whose work probably will outlive the people involved.” 
 
The 39-year-old likens his job to that of a corporate counsel. “My clients bring their legal issues to me, whatever they may be,” he says. “If I don’t do that area of the law, I’ll find the right people who will.” 
 
Weizenecker says that life has become so complex for entertainers and athletes—the pitfalls so numerous—they need a savvy team of people around them. “What you and I make, no one knows but us. But if an actor makes $2 million for a picture? It’s widely reported, and all of a sudden a bunch of wacky people are calling up trying to get a piece of that.” 
 
Other clients include POP Films, an Atlanta-based company (The Signal), and Legendary Pictures, which recently partnered with Warner Bros. on the box-office smash 300. Weizenecker is also a board member of the Rome International Film Festival, which every year brings independent filmmakers from around the world to Rome, Ga. 
 
“The [movie] industry really has turned around here, both as an investment vehicle and a creative vehicle,” he says. “Georgia has a lot more settings than other states—from the ocean to the mountains to urban [locales]. Also, the cost of living is generally lower, the weather is good, and film companies don’t have to deal with unions.” 
 
“Steve has a great ability to negotiate and close complex business transactions,” says entertainment attorney Joel Katz, chair of Greenberg Traurig’s global entertainment practice. “Plus, he’s a pretty mellow guy. In this business, you have to be a good listener and give your advice quietly.”  

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