Wiatt Remembered

The future exit of William Morris Agency Chairman Jim Wiatt is sad and surprising, according to those in the know, but nothing like the way it’s been portrayed by the Hollywood rumor mill.

Wiatt was expected to help WMA merge with the also-powerful Endeavor agency, which officially became one on or about June 2, then fade away by the end of the year, according to the Los Angeles Times. However, he was not “outmaneuvered” by fellow agent Ari Emanuel of Endeavor, as the story has been spun, sources told the Times.

Rather, negotiations put Wiatt into a backseat position but he would still be a figurehead. The honorary position would have made Wiatt unhappy and it wouldn’t sit well with new managing partners who would have Wiatt above them on the flowchart, according to the paper.

“Jim was not voted out of the company. That rumor out there – it’s completely false,” Endeavor’s Patrick Whitesell told the Times. “He made the decision to move on. We’re grateful for what Jimmy’s done.”

But Wiatt didn’t exactly come to the decision on his own. Close friends, entertainment attorney Skip Brittenham and former Viacom exec Tom Freston reportedly had lunch with Wiatt and gave him some advice – that the best move going forward would be for Wiatt to step aside.

Wiatt was “taken aback,” unnamed friends and associates told the Times. Wiatt was initially named chairman of the WMA / Endeavor company, whatever it would eventually be called. It was Wiatt who spurred the talks and the merger would be considered “the capstone of Wiatt’s three-decade-long career,” the paper said.

Wiatt was characterized in the article as an efficient manager who increased WMA’s strength in television and music. His handling of the WMA layoffs, though, was considered hamfisted, and he alienated several of his closest colleagues during the WME Entertainment negotiations.

“It would have been easy not to do this. It would have been easy to glide along – it wasn’t as if the company was doing poorly,” WMA President Dave Wirtschafter told the Times. “To his credit, he was the one who pushed to get this done, knowing it would be turned over to others. That’s a pretty significant thing.”