“It changes our world in a great way. It makes us the clear alternative in a much smaller agency environment."
——UTA partner Jeremy Zimmer in the N.Y. Times


Not a New Pro Wrestling Entity, TV Network or Secondary-Market Ticketing Service, but Something Much More Ominous: a Super Agency Poised to Descend on Hollywood
As expected, William Morris and Endeavor announced their merger yesterday, bringing about the creation of a super agency. It bears the clever moniker William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, or WME for short.

The new entity is getting attention outside of newspaper business sections because of Endeavor head Ari Emanuel, who’s not only the model for Entourage agent Ari Gold but also the brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Ari’s already said to be taking bids on the movie rights to his life story.

William Morris Chairman Jim Wiatt will retain that title at WME, while Emanuel and Endeavor Managing Partner Patrick Whitesell will share CEO duties with William Morris President Dave Wirtschafter. Those four gunslingers will be the nine-member board, along with John Fogleman, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh and duffer Peter Grosslight and from William Morris and Rick Rosen and Adam Venit from Endeavor.

WME is expected to have around 1,000 employees altogether, roughly a third of them agents. That’s fewer than the total number of agents employed by the two companies, meaning some are already looking for other gigs while others wait for the other shoe to drop.

The L.A. Times, in fact, jumped past news of the merger itself to focus on the fallout it immediately created. In a story beating the headline “William Morris-Endeavor merger deal prompting exodus of agents,” Dawn Chmielewski lists the first wave of high-level casualties: Tom Strickler, one of Endeavor's four founders, submitted his resignation; William Morris' David Lonner, who reps such A-list talent as TV producer J.J. Abrams, and colleague Steve Rabineau were being courted by United Talent Agency; and Mark Itkin, who has built William Morris' reality TV business into a juggernaut, was also in play but declined to comment.

The merger ends a period of relative stability among the major agencies, notes the N.Y. Times Michael Cieply in his assessment, raising the possibility of new combinations and a stronger thrust by talent representatives into what the reporter speculates could be fresh lines of business involving finance, digital distribution or corporate alliances.

But the more immediate question, Cieply notes, may be whether the new company is really poised to become a powerhouse, or if this is the just the start of another Hollywood power struggle.

The merger, notes Cieply, could prove a boon to competitors like UTA, ICM, Paradigm and the Gersh Agency, all of which have pockets of strength, and have spent the last few months sizing up the agents and clients who might fall away from a combined William Morris and Endeavor. “I think it changes our world in a great way,” UTA partner Jeremy Zimmer told the reporter. “It makes us the clear alternative in a much smaller agency environment.”

It remains to be seen what A-list musical artists will be lured to the WME client roster, but I.B. Bad reported late last year that Emanuel was seriously considering beefing up his music roster at Endeavor, and that impulse could conceivably play out within the context of WME. As we never fail to say, stay tuned.