By and  on September 15, 2005

NEW YORK — St. John has landed Angelina Jolie at last.

The Irvine, Calif.-based company will announce a multimillion-dollar deal with the 30-year-old actress at a press conference at noon today at the New York Public Library — smack around the corner from the fashion week tents of Bryant Park. The announcement will confirm a report in Tuesday's WWD.

And if that doesn't create enough hubbub, ad executives said the deal could raise the stakes for actresses appearing in fashion ad campaigns. Speculation raged Wednesday over how much Jolie will receive from the deal, with amounts stretching up to $12 million for a multiyear agreement. Some sources also claim she may be given a stake in the company and a seat on its board. The deal was reportedly struck by Jolie's agency, CAA, and Starworks, which worked on behalf of St. John.

The agreement also could be structured the way actors negotiate deals with movies, giving Jolie a percentage of St. John's revenues, which last year totaled $395.6 million. There also could be a contribution made by St. John to Jolie's various charitable endeavors.

St. John representatives said Richard Cohen, chief executive officer, was not available for comment Wednesday because he was en route to New York for the press conference. David Lipman, chairman of Lipman, St. John's ad agency, couldn't be reached for comment, either.

The pace of celebrity involvement in fashion is increasing at breakneck speed, from launching their own lines to appearing in ad campaigns. Elizabeth Hurley and, most recently, Gwyneth Paltrow each have received a reported $3 million for appearing in ads for Estée Lauder; Charlize Theron received an estimated $3 million to $5 million in a multiyear deal to be the face of Dior's J'Adore, and Nicole Kidman is said to have been paid $5 million for doing the campaign, including a film and TV commercial, for Chanel No.5.

For a celebrity to get a stake in the business is unusual, but not unheard of.

"It's not unprecedented," said Peter Arnell, chairman and chief creative executive officer of the Arnell Group. "She might receive the revenue as if she had a stake in it; she'll take a percentage based on sales," he speculated, adding that it would make her more committed to the project. "She'll have a much more personal interest, which will make it work better."Arnell believes Jolie will help St. John "show tremendous incremental growth that will affect the company's overall structure, presence and power in the marketplace."

As part of her deal, Jolie, who is more often seen in body-revealing designs by Versace and Dolce & Gabbana, may be under contract to turn out in St. John in all public appearances, particularly those on the red carpet.

Sources said negotiations with Jolie began as early as last March, but a deal couldn't be wrapped up in time for the fall 2005 season, so it will begin for spring 2006.

"They're throwing a lot of money at it," said Mike Toth, ceo and creative director of Toth Brand Imaging, a Concord, Mass.-based ad agency. "In my opinion, in a company in transition, it [needs] more than just marketing.

"To give someone a stake in the company ... these people are in and out of favor. I don't even know who their consumer is. Is that a face they can live with for a long time? They'd be better off with giving her a lot of money, and seeing how it goes," said Toth.

Since Cohen came aboard as ceo of St. John, the 40-year-old company has moved in a dramatically new direction. For starters, it severed its relationship with co-founder and designer Marie Gray, as well as the founder's daughter and creative director, Kelly Gray. It also brought in an outside ad agency, shook up employees from the executive ranks on down and retained industry veteran Tim Gardner as a consultant to work with the design team since at least last January.

This fall, St. John selected Gisele Bündchen as its new face, replacing Kelly Gray, who had starred in the firm's campaigns for more than two decades. Bündchen was photographed by Mario Testino in a Hollywood Hills mansion, surrounded by several extras in costume. It was a nod to the past campaign with Gray and her constant cadre of boy toys.

Jolie has long been a tabloid favorite, but her notoriety reached a crescendo this year surrounding her relationship with Brad Pitt, her co-star in the summer blockbuster "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," which raked in nearly $400 million globally at the box office. She is currently filming "The Good Shepherd," with Matt Damon and Robert De Niro, who also directs. Jolie is also the ambassador for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.Given her image, the choice will present St. John in an extremely different light. Attracting a wider and younger client base, and thereby upping its appeal and sales, has been a key driver of the changes at St. John.

Trey Laird, owner of Laird + Partners, the New York ad agency that produces campaigns for Gap and Donna Karan, said he hadn't heard about Jolie's deal with St. John, but never heard of any actress-spokesmodel getting a stake in the business. "That would be new territory," he said. "But being involved in deals of a similar stature [Laird has hired Sarah Jessica Parker and Madonna for Gap, among others], the reports are always wrong," he said, that the figures reported are often skewed too high.

Laird said there isn't a going rate of how much actresses get paid to appear in ad campaigns. "Each deal is quite complicated and unique to the company," he said. "It could be a lot less or so much more. There are a lot of creative negotiations that go on in these deals." He said a lot of times it depends on what the actress and the company want out of it: "Sometimes it's exposure, and sometimes it's cash, and sometimes the company has different goals."

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