Its name evokes a world of beauty and glamour. But lately, Elite Model Management, the largest modeling network in the world, has developed a bad case of the uglies. Not long ago it was a hot agency, representing such models as Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, and Naomi Campbell. It still has Lauren Bush, President George W. Bush's niece, and former supermodel Paulina Porizkova on its 750-strong roster.
For two years, Elite has been at the center of a $50 million class action. The lawsuit, originally filed on behalf of some 10,000 models against Elite and 12 other agencies, went to trial on June 1. The models allege rampant, decades-long price-fixing. BusinessWeek has learned that most of the agencies named in the suit, including Ford Models and Wilhelmina Models opted to settle the first day of the trial. The terms were not disclosed and the judge still must rule on the settlements.