Bill Wackermann

PIER 59 BAN: Bill Wackermann, chief executive officer of Wilhelmina International and Nadia Shahrik, vice president of Major Model Management, acknowledged Wednesday that they have each received letters by Federal Express from Pier 59 Studios’ attorney, Mark L. Cortegiano, that their models are no longer permitted to enter Pier 59 Studio, and if they do, his client will prosecute them for trespassing.

As reported, Federico Pignatelli, ceo of Pier 59, Art and Fashion Group and The Industry Model Management, said last Thursday he was banning Wilhelmina and Major Model Management from using his studios, claiming unfair business practices employed by these agencies.

In the letter to Wilhelmina, obtained by WWD, Cortegiano wrote, “While my client recognizes that Wilhelmina International is a large and long-established modeling agency, my client believes that Wilhelmina’s models are subject to financial and contractual duress, and Pier 59 will not work with Wilhelmina under those circumstances. It has come to my clients’ attention that payments to Wilhelmina’s models is only made after significant delay and repeated requests from the models.”

Wackermann said he spoke to Pignatelli for two hours on the phone. “If this is a person who really cared about the models, if a client books a Wilhelmina model, you’re going to escort a 19-year-old kid and throw her out of your building and turn her away from a job? Is that helping a model at all?” He said Pignatelli didn’t answer.

Further, Wackermann said, he offered Pignatelli the opportunity to sit down, if he really cared, and talk about putting a coalition together with leaders of the agencies to see what can be done. “He had zero interest in that,” claimed Wackermann.

In Cortegiano’s letter to Major Models, he wrote, “It has come to my clients’ attention that, among other things, Major is not properly paying its models for jobs, and that when models seek to be released from their contracts for not being paid, Major demands that the models waive the balance of any money owed to them by Major plus pay Major $7,000 to $10,000 to buy out the contract without any basis.”

Shahrik once again laughed at the accusation. She said her attorney has sent a letter to Pier 59, and she would let her attorney deal with the matter. “Everyone makes their own business decisions and they have to live with it,” she said.

Reached for comment, Pignatelli interpreted the conversation with Wilhelmina differently. “I spoke to the ceo of Wilhelmina and, during our conversation, he questioned my reasons for taking this action with the Models Bill of Rights. He asked me why I would set rules regarding modernizing payment practices and standardizing contracts that would also affect my agency. I replied that, ‘This is how I am choosing to run my agency and will continue to do so in the future. I feel very strongly about the principles that I laid out in the Models Bill of Rights.’

“I invited him to join me in taking action and changing his approach to business, but he refused. I also advised him to raise additional capital to bring the company into a stronger financial position to be able to pay the models accordingly, which he also refused. I am taking Wilhelmina’s response as a clear statement that they do not wish to work together to see the modeling industry modernized and changed so that models are paid in a fair and professional manner, without being under duress by enforcing the one-sided contracts that the models may find the agency to be in breach of and/or feel to be mismanaged.

“Major Models, instead, sent me an overly aggressive letter from their attorney stating that I was interfering with their business. As I have just received the letter, I am now in the process of responding to them,” said Pignatelli.

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