Gores And Diamond Talk Paradigm

For a guy who has acquired two of the highest-profile boutique agencies in the music world in as many years, Paradigm CEO Sam Gores hasn’t been one to seek the spotlight. It came looking for him, however, with the announcement August 21st that his company acquired New York-based Little Big Man, two years after acquiring Monterey Peninsula Artists.

After more than 20 years of running a talent agency focused primarily on film, television and literary clients, Paradigm wasn’t much talked about in the music business. But that is likely to change with the addition of Marty Diamond, Larry Webman and the Little Big Man team to that of Chip Hooper, Dan Weiner, Jonathan Levine and Fred Bohlander at MPA, which Gores acquired in 2004.

“I’ve never given a lot of interviews,” Gores told Pollstar days after being profiled in the Los Angeles Times. “I’m not used to talking to as many people as I have been lately!”

Gores and Paradigm are not strangers to media attention, though, particularly thanks to published reports in 2004 that had Paradigm poised to acquire International Creative Management before ICM received a $100 million cash infusion to shore itself up. While Gores is able to laugh about winding up on the pages of Internet gossip sheet Defamer.com, he emphasized he was unhappy the press speculation “was so negative. I prefer to deal in positives.”

But despite that experience, Gores is at ease talking about his business and philosophy. And everyone involved seems to agree the Little Big Man and MPA deals are a winner all the way around: for Paradigm, the acquired agencies and, most importantly, for their artists.

“We’re very excited between the combination of Little Big Man and Monterey Peninsula Artists. It really puts us in a great place in the music business,” Gores said. “I’ve always wanted to grow our business, when we wanted to grow it, in a first-class way: Not from the ground up, but by blending cultures that are compatible, which is what you can see with Little Big Man and Monterey.”

As for Diamond, who has headed the team at Little Big Man for almost 13 years, the opportunity to expand his clients’ access to other fields of artistic endeavor – whether as actors, film scorers or even authors – was a main factor in agreeing to join Gores and Paradigm.

“As the company was growing, our clients were also growing creatively,” Diamond told Pollstar. “I wanted to have access to other areas for our roster and I wanted to continue growing the company. Having access to entry, the ability to get in the door, is a very tough thing. With my clients, I know that once they have an opportunity to get in the door, they will accomplish great things.

“We’re not going to sacrifice our boutique spirit, but we now have a much bigger playing field and we have a sister company in Monterey Peninsula Artists at this point. It does open up a larger group of variables for us.”

Diamond acknowledged taking meetings with “every other major agency in the business” but Paradigm gave him the opportunity to cater to his roster, rather than see it simply combined with that of another agency.

“My clients have been nurtured over the years and we didn’t want to sacrifice that,” Diamond explained. “The folks at Paradigm, particularly Sam Gores who is instrumental in this deal happening, understand that and see the vision.”

Diamond says that Gores’ business philosophy matches his own “clients first” outlook. “It’s not about the agency business – it’s about the client business. That’s always been a mantra for us. And witnessing Sam on calls and the way he works, I know it’s the same mantra for him.”

Gores had a specific reason for turning to music acquisitions after building an agency better known for films, television packaging and literary talent.

“I’ve been a closet musician my whole life, since I was 11 years old,” Gores said, laughing. “I’m grateful that we’ve become so successful as a talent and literary agency that it just seemed to be natural for my growth to have a music component.

“Having said that, the margins are pretty great in that end of the business. These guys (Little Big Man) run a really tight ship, a very profitable business, and that makes it a good thing to do. And they represent mostly musical artists that are really unique and that can transition into other areas.”

With the acquisition, Little Big Man retains its eclectic roster including Coldplay, Blue Man Group, Avril Lavigne, P.O.D., Franz Ferdinand, KT Tunstall, Sarah McLachlan, The Fray, Scissor Sisters, and Pharrell Williams.

Diamond said there will be no fundamental change to his staff or operations with the merger, though details about integration of the firms are something of a work in progress.

According to Gores, how that integration is accomplished is a decision that will be made by Diamond and Hooper, and will take some time to accomplish. Ultimately, as the integration is in place, Monterey Peninsula Artists and Little Big Man will be blended – names included – into Paradigm.

“Chip and Marty, in particular, are the ones that are really going to work out issues of integration between offices,” Gores said. “Marty will oversee music on the East Coast and we have somebody in place in Nashville, and in Monterey. Probably in early ’07 we will start blending in together and becoming just Paradigm so there are not different brands.”

Now that Little Big Man is in the fold, Gores says he’s pretty much done for now.

“I don’t think we’re actively looking for further acquisitions but if one comes along that is perfect, then we won’t look away. Marty Diamond, in terms of his reputation and who he is, was really perfect,” Gores said. “Marty is a terrific guy with a really great reputation and a good cluster of people who work really well together in New York and they have some unique taste in music and artists.”

While Gores acknowledges size can offer a certain amount of needed clout and access in order to maximize opportunities, he takes a measured approach to acquisitions and, for example, rejects branching into areas such as corporate and athletic representation.

“We’re trying to make everything revolve around the core business which is how to represent artists, where everything revolves around the artist,” Gores said. “There’s not a big appetite for us to roll up companies just because we can roll up companies. We like the way we are growing organically.

“I’ve never believed you can falsely put together a team. Sometimes a team has to evolve over years, and we have a pretty great team here.”

– Deborah Speer