Talks of a merger between William Morris Agency and Endeavor aren’t going away and, in fact, apparently carry enough weight to draw the attention of the Grey Lady – much to the consternation of another writer.
Most of the major players in the agency biz have either publicly or privately considered merging at one time or another, with talks being broken off for either personal or professional reasons. These particular talks have reached a tipping point, to the level where the New York Times is writing about it.
“It’s taken The New York Times since February 17th to write a story about my first scoop that the Endeavor/William Morris merger talks were real (Nor did the paper give me credit),” Deadline Hollywood’s Nikki Finke wrote March 10. “Too bad tomorrow’s article has no new news but a lot of stuff wrong.”
Endeavor has clients like Tyra Banks and Ricky Gervais while WMA has actors “past their prime” like Mel Gibson and Richard Gere, the Times noted. But WMA has a heavyweight and massive music department that easily compensates for its fading cinema star power. If the talks go through, the combined company could mean a seismic shift in the world of Hollywood, with the new venture maybe taking the best corner restaurant table away from popular leader CAA, according to the Times.
Obstacles include divergent philosophies. Endeavor is known for leaders who shower their staff with gifts for a job well done while WMA has employees upset they are not positively rewarded by their bosses, the Times reported. Endeavor is viewed as young and cool while WMA is viewed as being entrenched in a hierarchical system developed from more than a century of doing business.
There’s another obstacle, according to Finke: the tax consequences of merging an LLC with an “S” corporation.
But if the deal goes through, Willie Mo’s CEO, James A. Wiatt, would likely helm the company while Endeavor’s Ari Emanuel would have operating control, the Times reported. The company would reduce payroll and have “far fewer” than its current 1,000 employees combined.
Another sticking point: Wiatt was the hatchet man who fired Endeavor’s Emanuel, Rick Rosen and Tom Strickler in 1995. Wiatt was president of ICM at the time and showed them the door when he got wind they were starting their own agency.