We manage retired members of the intelligence community with their involvement with content creation and development in Hollywood.
We’ve teamed up with some of the most successful producers, directors, studio executives, agents, writers, and entertainment lawyers to build an organization designed to maximize your opportunities and the value of your intellectual property.
Find out if we may be right for you.
We maintain the largest network of senior leaders in the intelligence community across the world.
If you need consulting support for a project ranging from cybersecurity to counterintelligence and counterterrorism, we either have the right person for you or will gladly connect you to the right person.
JOHN SIPHER, Co-Founder
John retired in 2014 after a 28-year career in the Central Intelligence Agency’s National Clandestine Service. At the time of his retirement, he was a member of the CIA’s Senior Intelligence Service, the leadership team that guides CIA activities globally. John served multiple overseas tours as Chief of Station and Deputy Chief of Station in Europe, Asia, and in high-threat environments. He has significant experience working with foreign and domestic partners to solve national security challenges. John also served as a lead instructor in the CIA’s clandestine training school, and was a regular lecturer at the CIA’s leadership development program. He is the recipient of the Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal.
John is a sought-after foreign policy and intelligence expert. John speaks regularly on foreign policy and intelligence issues. His articles have been published in the New York Times, The Atlantic, Politico, Foreign Affairs, Newsweek, Slate, Lawfare, The Cipher Brief and Just Security, among others. He regularly appears on the PBS NewsHour, CNN, MSNBC, BBC and other outlets. Twitter: @john_sipher
Jerry O’Shea, Co-Founder
Originally from upstate New York, Jerry was afflicted with a severe case of early onset Wanderlust. Leaving home at 18, he lived and studied in Germany, getting by as a waiter, doing construction, and taking odd jobs. An inveterate traveler, he spent years roaming Europe, Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East. He attended university in Austria, Germany, Mexico, and graduate school in Arizona.
Recruited into CIA, Jerry worked undercover as an operations officer for over three decades. He served, probably not coincidentally, back in Europe, Africa, South Asia, and in the Middle East as well as in numerous war zones. A four-time Chief of Station running some of CIA’s largest and most critical missions abroad, he has relished the challenge of service to a greater good in the gray, blurred, and bleary borderlands between good and evil, right and wrong.
Jerry, to the extent allowed by CIA, is now dedicated to assisting a wider audience to take a hard, honest look at the real-world moral and operational imperatives confronting those still serving within CIA’s honorable brother and sisterhoods of intelligence.
PETER SCHLESSEL, SENIOR ADVISOR
Peter has had a traditional and entrepreneurial career in the entertainment industry. He has held senior roles at both Focus Features and Sony Pictures Entertainment. Peter co-founded and served as CEO of FilmDistrict which garnered over $500MM in box office on the movies it produced and was ultimately acquired by Universal.
Over the span of his career, Peter has produced, acquired or distributed hundreds of titles including Looper, District 9, The Theory Of Everything, Olympus Has Fallen and Insidious. Peter also was instrumental in working with Jeff Skoll on the founding of Participant Media. Peter recently joined the board of directors of Village Roadshow Entertainment Group.
DAVE HARVILICZ, LEGAL & BUSINESS AFFAIRS
Dave has been an innovator and pioneer in the launch and expansion of startups in both U.S. and international markets since 1999. He currently serves as COO of Finite State, an IoT cybersecurity firm. Prior to that, he lead corporate development efforts at Redacted, a cybersecurity startup valued at $100MM.
Previously, Dave co-founded and was CEO of Kernel, a Hollywood-based technology startup, which was sold in 2016 to NBC-Universal. Kernel became well known for distributing the movie THE INTERVIEW after Sony was hacked by North Korea.
In his early career, Dave was an insider on Wall Street, K Street, and in Silicon Valley. His experience as an M&A and venture capital attorney, Fortune 500 business management consultant, university professor, and serial entrepreneur has given him unique perspective on law and business.
He speaks Russian, German, and Portuguese, graduated with honors from William & Mary and NYU Law School, and has been licensed as a Series 65 investment advisor. Dave lives in Santa Monica with his family.
CO-FOUNDER & CHIEF STRATEGY OFFICER
Grant Verstandig is the founder and CEO of Rally Health, Inc., a consumer-centric digital health company that develops online and mobile tools that empower people to take control of their health and well-being and manage their health care needs. Additionally, he serves as Chief Digital Officer for United Health Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified health and well-being company with more than 270,000 employees worldwide, and which ranks #5 on the Fortune 500 list (2018). Grant has been leading United’s digital health agenda since 2017.
Grant founded Rally® in April 2010 under the name Audax, raising more than $55 million prior to UnitedHealth Group acquiring a majority stake in the business in 2014. Over the years, Grant and Rally have received numerous distinctions. In 2018, Business Insider included Grant on its list of 30 leaders under 40 in health tech who are using technology to shape the future of medicine. In 2013, the company was named one of CNBC’s “50 Most Disruptive Companies”; one of the “Best Places to Work” by USA Today, Washingtonian Magazine; and the “No. 1 Healthiest Employer in Washington” by Washington Business Journal. In 2012, Grant was included on Bisnow’s “40 under 30” list and in 2013, he made Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list in science and healthcare. Grant is a founding member of the Greater Washington Partnership and is currently a director of the organization. He also serves as co-chair of the American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) National Council.
Grant took a nontraditional path to his leadership roles at Rally Health and UnitedHealth Group. He was studying neurobiology at Brown University when he went through a series of knee surgeries stemming from a lacrosse injury and began a long and frustrating journey through the health care system. The experience ignited a determination in him to find a way to make health care easier and more accessible for everyone. He left college his sophomore year, and at age 21 founded Rally Health (previously Audax) with the singular focus to transform the consumer health and well-being industry. Grant lives in the Washington D.C. area.
RACHEL HARNER, DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR
Rachel is an aspiring playwright and television writer learning all she can about the entertainment industry. At SMERSH, Rachel is helping develop our scripted content slate for TV and film and coordinating our content acquisition pipeline.
Originally from the state of Washington, Rachel graduated cum laude from Harvard University where she majored in English with a minor in Archaeology. After college, Rachel worked for CAA in New York and Mark Goffman Productions in Hollywood.
(In Alphabetical Order)
Toomas Hendrik Ilves
Toomas Hendrik Ilves is an Estonian politician who served as the fourth President of Estonia from 2006 until 2016. Toomas worked as a diplomat and journalist, and he was the leader of the Social Democratic Party in the 1990s. He served in the government as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1996 to 1998 and again from 1999 to 2002. Later, he was a Member of the European Parliament from 2004 to 2006. In 2017 he joined Stanford University as a Bernard and Susan Liautaud Visiting Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation in the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. Starting from July 2017, Toomas Hendrik Ilves is a Bergruen Fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University; Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution; Adjunct Scholar, Global Digital Policy Initiative, Center for Democracy, Development and Rule of Law, Freeman-Spogli Institute, Stanford University. He also belongs to the advisory council of the Alliance for Securing Democracy. E-mail: thilves@Stanford.edu
Paul served 25 years as an operations officer in the CIA. He was a member of the Senior Intelligence Service and is a recipient of the Intelligence Medal of Merit and the Distinguished Career Intelligence
Medal. Paul’s assignments included posts in the former Soviet Union, the Balkans, Southeast Asia, East Germany, and Southern Africa. In course of his career, he served as Station Chief and in a variety of senior operational leadership and training roles.
Alon is a media executive and television producer. He currently serves as CEO of Keshet International, Keshet Media Group’s global distribution and production arm. He is one of the founders of Israel’s multi-channel industry, commissioned thousands of hours of programming, including the original "In Treatment" (BeTipul) and introduced Israel’s initial video on demand (VOD) service. Alon was featured in Variety’s "Dealmakers Impact Report" for rolling out Keshet International and setting production outposts in the UK, US and Australia.
Keshet International produces and distributes shows such as Deal With It, Rising Star, Master Class, Dig, Dear Neighburs, Prisoners of War and Boom. In the U.S. he was executive producer for Dig, Rising Star and Boom. In 2014, Alon moved with his family from London to Los Angeles.
Sam Sokolow is a two-time Emmy nominated producer and currently the President of Nice Media Studios, a Los Angeles and New York based independent television studio. Nice Media sits at the cross roads of premium television & digital distribution, A-List talent, Intellectual Property and physical production. At Nice Media, Sam oversees all aspects of television & film development and production, including script and format creation & the packaging of intellectual properties as well as full third party production services — every aspect of bringing television shows, limited series and films to market.
Currently, Sam is executive producer of GENIUS, a scripted series for National Geographic Network. The first season of GENIUS depicted the life of Albert Einstein with Geoffrey Rush starring as Einstein and Ron Howard directing the pilot. GENIUS: EINSTEIN garnered ten 2017 Emmy nominations including a Best Limited Series nomination for Sam. The second season of GENIUS – GENIUS: PICASSO – depicted the life of Pablo Picasso with Antonio Banderas starring as Picasso and garnered seven 2018 Emmy nominations including a Best Limited Series nomination for Sam. Nat Geo has announced a third season of GENIUS which will depict the life of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley and which will premiere in 2019.
Michael Steed is the Founder and Managing Partner of Paladin Capital, and serves as Chairman of the Paladin Cyber Fund and Paladin III Investment Committees. Mr. Steed provides management oversight of the firm’s operations and investments, and is responsible for the Paladin’s strategic direction. Prior to forming Paladin Capital, Mr. Steed served as Senior Vice President of Investments of a major financial services company based in Washington, DC, and served as President of its SEC registered investment advisory firm.
From 1981 to 1985, Mr. Steed served as Special Counsel to the Chairman and as the National Director of the U.S. Democratic Party (DNC). Mike serves on the Board of Trustees of Loyola Marymount University. He is also a member of the Board of Visitors for Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and is a founding board member of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) and is a member of the Board of National Alliance to End Homelessness and The National Park Trust.
Michael J. Sulick is an American intelligence officer who served as Director of the U.S. National Clandestine Service from 2007-2010. Mike, who grew up in the Bronx, studied Russian language and literature at Fordham University and later earned his Ph.D. from the City University of New York. He also served as a Marine during the Vietnam War. Mike joined the CIA in 1980. He was stationed overseas throughout his career, in Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America, Poland, and Russia. Sulick served as the senior CIA representative in Russia and Poland, Chief of the Central Eurasian Division, and Chief of CIA Counterintelligence. He is also the author of two books on Espionage, "Spying in America" and "American Spies," both published by Georgetown University Press.
Silvia regularly represents motion picture studios and television networks as well as entrepreneurial clients on a wide range of corporate transactions, including company formation and structuring, acquisitions, partnerships, joint ventures, strategic alliances, financings, and dispositions.
O’Melveny has been synonymous with entertainment law since Hollywood’s Golden Age in the 1930s. For decades, the firm has helped major players in film, television and cable, production and distribution, the Internet, video games, music, finance, investment, and dozens of household-name performers successfully tackle groundbreaking deals and high-profile disputes.
University of Michigan Law, J.D.: cum laude;
Michigan Law Review
University of Bologna, Ph.D., Philosophy: highest distinction
University of Bologna, B.A., Philosophy: summa cum laude
Douglas H. Wise retired from CIA in August 2016 as the Deputy Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. As the Deputy Director of DIA, Doug was the Chief Operating Officer for a 20,000 employee, global defense enterprise supporting senior Defense and National policymakers and the war fighting commands. Prior to his Joint Duty Assignment at DIA, Doug served nearly thirty years with CIA’s Clandestine Service. He had the privilege of leading several of the Agency’s most important components at CIA Headquarters and in the field. In the course of multiple field assignments, Doug served four times as a Chief of Station, including a tour as a Chief of Station in a war-zone location that was then the largest field station in the Agency’s history. He was also the CIA’s Chief of Operational Training. Doug has extensive senior leadership experience in integrating Intelligence Community components, from his service as a senior leader in two of CIA’s largest multi-agency centers, the Counterterrorism Center and the Cyber Intelligence Center. Including assignments in Europe, the Balkans, the Middle East, South Asia and East Asia, he served multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition to supporting SMERSH, He currently serves on a number of corporate boards, provides management and leadership coaching and mentoring to the leadership teams of large corporations, high net worth clients, a DOE laboratory and teaches a course at the University of New Mexico.