London’s Agency Scene Goes Helter Skelter

There’s still no confirmation that Emma Banks and Mike Greek will be joining Los Angeles-based Creative Artists Agency, but there’s no longer even a shadow of doubt that they’re on their way out of Helter Skelter.

The London-based agency has dropped both agents from its staff list and some top-earning acts have also disappeared from the company’s roster.

Although it’s now obvious that Banks and Greek are definitely leaving and their departure is imminent, Sanctuary chief exec Frank Presland – who took over when company co-founder Andy Taylor was ousted in May – is still declining to comment.

Apart from the apparent loss of Alicia Keys, David Gray, Franz Ferdinand, Jamie Cullum, KT Tunstall, Nelly Furtado, Nickel Creek, Nine Inch Nails, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sheryl Crow, and System Of A Down, which decimates the top end of the roster, Helter Skelter is also saying goodbye to Arcade Fire, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, The Dandy Warhols, Delta Goodrem, Grandaddy, Hope Of The States, Hot Hot Heat, Kraftwerk, Ray Lamontagne, and Wolfmother.

Ironically, X-Ray Touring – the new agency former Helter Skelter employees Ian Huffam, Jeff Craft and Steve Strange set up with Martin Horne and Scott Thomas from ITB in January 2005 – looks to have overtaken Helter Skelter as London’s biggest.

John Giddings’ Solo Agency and Neil Warnock’s The Agency Group also have very impressive rep lists. It’s now debatable that the departure of Banks and Greek may leave Helter Skelter no higher than fourth place.

Each week brings a new rumor that another agent is about to leave one of Sanctuary’s agencies, although stories that notoriously secretive agent John Jackson is moving K2 away from the cash-strapped, publicly traded company and that Paul Bolton is quitting Helter Skelter look to be the result of some whispers.

Jackson hasn’t commented one way or the other, but the speculation seems to be based on the impending departure of former Sanctuary managing director Merck Mercuriadis and company co-founder Rod Smallwood. Between them, Mercuriadis and Smallwood manage some of K2’s top acts, including Guns N’ Roses, Iron Maiden, and Morrissey.

One bit of gossip that definitely isn’t true – although widely spread – is that Bolton, whose roster includes Faithless, Kaiser Chiefs, Gavin DeGraw, and Delays, is moving across the city to join The Agency Group.

“A lot of people have phoned me and asked when I’m going but I’ve no idea where the story started. I’m contracted here for four-and-a-half years and I’m perfectly happy,” he explained.

“I haven’t been approached by The Agency, let alone had meetings with them. I wish it would stop because it’s not fair to me, it’s not fair to Sanctuary and Helter Skelter, and it’s not fair to Neil Warnock.”

The other major story, apart from Banks and Greek leaving Helter Skelter to join CAA, is that former Dire Straits manager Ed Bicknell will run a London office for the L.A.-based William Morris Agency.

When asked to confirm, both Bicknell and WMA head of music Peter Grosslight preferred to remain tight-lipped. The reason for this silence would seem to be the legal and contractual difficulties that can surface when agents switch companies.

There’s no problem if they’re out of contract, and they can always resign even if they’re still under contract, but the latter course of action could mean their acts are still tied to the agency they’re leaving.

A more common and less complicated solution is for the agent to negotiate his or her way out, which usually involves them having to pay some of their commission to the agency they’re leaving for at least a year.

With so many rumors spinning around the mill, there’s hardly a major London agent that’s not the subject of at least one. During the course of the next month, it will become clearer which are true and which ones were never more than rumors. But it’s certain the London agency business will look radically different in a few weeks’ time.

Each time an agent switches jobs it leaves an empty chair, and there may well be a second wave of moves as some companies search for replacements.

One major move that’s definitely on, and seemingly unconnected to CAA and WMA setting up in London, is that Paul Fitzgerald is ending his 14-year stay at Concorde International Artistes.

Fitzgerald, a director and part-owner of Concorde, will be at The Creative Entertainment Group, a corporate talent buying agency, as of October 2nd.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for me,” he told Pollstar, describing his switch from being a talent seller to a talent buyer.

Creative handles corporate entertainment on a worldwide basis, including providing talent for such huge events as the upcoming Asian Games and the ever-growing number of outdoor shows being put on by English soccer clubs.

Solomon Parker, who took over as head of Concorde when his father Louis died in 2000, said he’s sad to see Fitzgerald leave because they’ve run the company together for six years, but recognized that he wants to move away from agency work.

“We have both grown up together over our time here and have had some fantastic times and experiences, and he’s leaving with my very best wishes,” Parker said.

“His departure does leave a gap in the company but there have been a few interesting conversations taking place and some people have come forward with some great ideas.”

Asked if he was one of the agents approached by WMA, Fitzgerald said, “I think it will soon be quicker to list who they haven’t approached. They’re on an aggressive recruiting drive and I understand that they’re looking for as many as six agents.

“I would never have gone to a rival. After 14 years here, I just couldn’t have done that. I’ve always known that the day that I left Concorde would be the day that I left the agency business.”

– John Gammon