A good advisory team can mitigate a whole lot of bad behavior, but once the pressure shifts from scandal to criminal complaints the remedies get scarce and severe.
Kevin Spacey already threw away what was once a promising career. Decades of forcing himself on younger men — sometimes a lot younger — and buying their silence eventually wrecked his bankability in Hollywood.
Now the Los Angeles sheriff’s office has him under formal review on sexual assault reports going back to 1992.
While it’s unclear how incidents from 25 years ago are prosecutable even under California’s new sex crime statute of limitations, law enforcement evidently thinks there could be a case here.
One way or another, that’s the final nail in Spacey’s career coffin. There’s no rehabilitation here. The only silver lining for him now is to become a cautionary tale for other rich, famous and powerful people caught in dangerous and unsustainable patterns.
Some — like Roseanne star Emma Kenney — take the hint, acknowledge there’s a problem and adjust their behavior. They stay in a zone where professional advisors can make a difference.
But for Kevin Spacey, no amount of asset protection is really going to help if the sheriff decides to press charges.
The only crimes he could’ve committed in 1992 that could still be relevant are murder or a sexual offense against a person who has yet to turn 40, which is when the statute of limitations on that side runs out.
The first scenario is unlikely. Neither is the kind of thing that attracts high-profile work for a low-key but intense actor, even if the charges don’t end up sticking.
For anything else, society would’ve been able to forgive and move on, on the condition of course that Spacey made a compelling case that he’d cleaned up his act.
If there is a crime here, it’s a one-way trip. He’s already effectively “retired” and living on residuals and his savings, but someone could still ask him to work again.
You don’t really bounce back from a crime that you can still be prosecuted over 25 years later. Murder and assault too squalid to cover up will end even the most promising Hollywood careers — look at O.J. Simpson, Fatty Arbuckle and Robert Blake for proof of that.
And while the right trust in the right jurisdiction can shield tangible wealth from civil lawsuits, they can’t protect a reputation. That’s the asset Spacey has lost.
How can his advisors help him at this point? For one thing, he’s going to want to start interviewing criminal lawyers in case the sheriff determines there’s a case here. He wants to stay out of jail.
Crisis PR can help control the narrative and maybe reduce reputation damage. Success here is incremental: you’re fighting to keep public opinion from swinging all the way to “reprehensible.”
Otherwise, it’s simply a matter of knowing when to admit defeat and start figuring out how to stretch the wealth that’s already been accumulated. Maybe one day you’ll work again, but there’s no point in counting on it.
Turning into the skid
Defeat comes when all avenues that could theoretically lead to success shut down. Before that happens, strong advisors will lobby as hard as they can to get the client to change behavior.
Spacey evidently wouldn’t do that. He indulged his predatory habits until the rumors finally got too loud for comfort. Then the two-time Academy Award winner failed to come up with a convincing confessional speech.
People think he’s guilty. Compare that bungled performance to what teen TV star Emma Kenney just pulled off by acknowledging that she’s got a problem with illegal substances.
Reading between the lines, she’s probably an underage drinker. That’s a crime in itself, but she hasn't been spotted trashing any nightclubs or hotel rooms. She hasn’t crashed the car or really embarrassed herself.
Telling the world she has a problem now keeps the scandal from getting out of control. There are extenuating circumstances — the addiction narrative is already well established — and the remedies are medical and not criminal.
She can keep earning money. A good lawyer can argue down any serious trouble she’s gotten herself into. It’s standard operating procedure in Hollywood.
The model is less Robert Blake than Drew Barrymore. It’s a bumpy landing that everyone can walk away from, which means her support team did their job.
Until things cross the police line, they can be managed through the usual techniques: reputation management, spin control, hiding the assets from civil threats.
In extreme cases, the client is no longer in 100% control. That's a case for conservatorship -- Brittany Spears is the model here, playing concert dates her father picks out in order to keep her personal brand afloat.
The Cosby rule
Spacey could’ve come clean decades ago when standards were a lot lower. He could’ve even told the world he’s gay and build happy consensual relationships.
Instead he got so comfy with the cover-up that his trail finally got too sordid to cover.
But the future looks a lot stricter. Thanks ironically to the long-buried allegations around Bill Cosby — another actor who will probably never work again — California eliminated the sex crime statute of limitations a few years back.
Now if an actor interferes with anyone else sexually, it’s a good bet that it’ll come out sooner or later. That’s a long time to trust a hush deal to hold.
For one thing, the money won’t last. For another, people and social climates change. People came out against Spacey and other creeps like Harvey Weinstein when it became clear that they weren’t the only ones after all.
It’s better to avoid feeding bad habits in the first place. Or if they emerge, recognize them and work to get help.
And it isn’t just Hollywood. Your clients may be from Silicon Valley, the hedge fund community, any economic niche where reputation matters. Scandal isn’t an indulgence. It’s a direct and usually self-directed attack on future employment and earnings power.