CAA Hit By 10 Defections

Ten agents primarily working with comedy clients defected en masse from Creative Artists Agency and moved to crosstown rival United Talent Agency, starting with five announced by UTA on March 31 and others apparently following suit.  

Among the first five are agents Nick Nuciforo and Jason Heyman, who were immediately named head of comedy touring and special adviser to UTA’s board of directors, respectively.

UTA fired the first shot across the CAA bow by issuing a press release saying that five agents would become partners and it was expected they would bring their client rosters with them from CAA. In addition to Nuciforo and Heyman, comedy agents Martin Lesak, Gregory McKnight and Greg Cavic were included in UTA’s press release, which appeared to take CAA by surprise.

Within hours, trades and Hollywood bloggers were reporting more defections, naming agents and clients that may or may not be involved, and that CAA is lawyering up because some of the defectors were believed to be under binding contracts. The next day, a source with knowledge of the departures told Pollstar that five other comedy agents have also exited CAA: Joanna Scott, Susie Fox, John Sacks, Chelsea McKinnies and Mackenzie Condon. Of the 10, Nuciforo and Scott work with touring artists. The others represent clients across TV, film and digital platforms.

Among the artists confirmed to be taking their commissions to UTA are Will Farrell, Chris Pratt and Ed Helms. A CAA spokeswoman said the company had no comment after UTA got the jump with its own statement. “Jason, Marty, Gregory, Greg and Nick are among the most respected agents in our industry,” said UTA managing directors David Kramer and Jay Sures, and CEO Jeremy Zimmer, in a statement.

Photo: Pollstar
at Pollstar Live! in 2012 as a panelist. 

“We’re excited to have them join UTA’s collaborative culture, and we know that they and their clients will thrive here.” It wasn’t immediately known which of Nuciforo’s or Scott’s clients would follow them and neither was available for comment. Nuciforo joined CAA in 2005 after a run with APA. Heyman and Lesak have been partners at UTA in the past, according to Variety.

And with multiple reports that CAA is preparing to file a legal action against UTA, charging that some if not all of the defecting agents (or, more importantly, their commissions) are still under binding contracts, there is a lot of dust yet to settle. Nuciforo, Heyman and Lesak – at the very least – are said to have been under contract to CAA at the time they bolted, according to The Hollywood Reporter, which also points out that the late Ed Limato used California’s seven-year personal services contract law to win his case after he left ICM for William Morris Agency in 2007.

According to THR, all three have been with CAA for more than seven years.

The departures followed on the heels of news that Kanye West left CAA and longtime agent Cara Lewis, also for UTA. United Talent Agency has been an active player lately, having recently promoted eight additional agents to partner from its stable of some 200 agents between Beverly Hills, Calif., and New York City offices.