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The CAA Death Star

MASS DEFECTIONS FROM CAA TO UTA

"It's about the money."

At least 10 CAA agents jumped ship to rival UTA during a tumultuous 24 hours spanning Tuesday and Wednesday, the L.A. Times and various showbiz trades report. The large-scale relocation came with no warning, according to people at CAA, as assistants turned up to work with no bosses to tend to.

The exodus represents one of the biggest in the agency business in decades, and insiders say it could be the start of a long-term legal battle, with many expecting CAA to sue on breach-of-contract claims.

The biggest agents to depart CAA were Jason Heyman and Martin Lesak, who ran the agency's comedy division.

A number of high-level agency executives familiar with the situation told the Times the departing agents were frustrated about compensation and stifled opportunities within CAA's ranks. There had also been complaints that CAA has been trying to rein in its costs, which hasn't gone down well in an industry known for lavish perks.

"I really don't think this has anything to do with corporate culture," said former ICM agent Gavin Polone. "It's about the money."

Unlike CAA and WME, UTA is not partly owned by a private equity company. That could appeal to some agents who might chafe at a more strict corporate style resulting from private equity ownership.

"The problem is that CAA is now owned by a private equity company, and agents don't like authority," said one high-level agent at another firm. “We are taught to question authority to make the best deal for our clients, and being owned by some outsider gets tricky.”

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