The Year In Agencies: Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes CAA Acquires ICM Partners, Execs Keep Making Moves

2021 Moves:
– 2021 Moves:
Top Row: Matt Galle, Mike Marquis and Rachel Pestik of CAA; Robert Gibbs Of ICM; Brent Smith of Wasserman Music. Second Row: Scott Clayton, Matthew Morgan and Buster Phillips of UTA; Caroline Yim and Zach Iser of WME.
With concerts finally returning to stages in 2021, the power plays and shifts among executives across agencies that the live business is known for also seemed to have ramped up. 
If 2020 was the year of the indies – with a number of agents banding together following pandemic-induced layoffs and furloughs to form new boutique agencies including TBA, MINT Talent Group and Arrival Artists – 2021 saw the return of major consolidation.  
The agency world’s biggest bombshell of the year hit in late September with the news that Creative Artists Agency had executed a definitive agreement to acquire ICM Partners. Financial terms of the deal, which was expected to close by the end of 2021, were not disclosed.  
ICM’s clients include Chaka Khan, Buddy Guy, Chris Rock, Corinne Bailey Rae, D’Angelo, Dan Auerbach, Good Charlotte, J. Cole, Jerry Seinfeld, Jill Scott, Kamasi Washington, Khalid, Los Lonely Boys, Mavis Staples, Migos, Roger Daltrey, Rosanne Cash, Sheila E., The Black Keys, Tower of Power and Trey Songz. Along with a roster in music, film, TV, comedy, theater, games, politics, and podcasting, ICM includes London-based ICM Stellar Sports.
The CAA and ICM pairing is regarded as the biggest such deal since Endeavor and William Morris Agency merged in 2009.
ICM was formed in 1975 after a merger of Creative Management Associates and International Famous Agency. That same year CAA was formed by a group of agents who previously worked at William Morris Agency.
Veteran agent Wayne Forte of Entourage Talent Associates spoke to Pollstar shortly after the news of the ICM acquisition became public and reflected on how mergers have previously brought opportunity. 
“I was involved in the [merger that created] ICM,” Forte says. “I lived through it. I saw what happened there. And, you know, everybody was like, ‘Oh my God, this is going to be the beginning of the end,’ or whatever. But you know what came out of that? CAA.” 
He added, “I don’t think it’s doom and gloom by any stretch of the imagination. It’s not like, ‘Oh my God, now it’s over. They’re big and we’re little.’ [The acquisition] just makes them bigger. And that’s a different game.”
ICM had already seen some major changes earlier this year with Rob Prinz stepping down as Head of Worldwide Concerts in February and Mark Siegel, ICM’s Head of Music, taking over the role. Prinz remained at ICM as partner and agent.   
As part of a restructure of ICM’s Concerts Division leadership, Robert Gibbs, who represents J. Cole, among others, was named Head of Music. An announcement noted that the promotion made Gibbs the highest-ranking Black executive in the agency business.
The other big restructuring in the business took place in April when Wasserman closed acquisition of Paradigm’s North American music assets to form Wasserman Music.  
Brent Smith, who departed WME in late 2020 “following an investigation based on complaints of bullying behavior,” was named executive vice president and managing executive of Wasserman Music in early July.
A few weeks earlier Matt Galle, Mike Marquis and Rachel Pestik joined CAA after departing what had been Paradigm. Galle’s clients include Shawn Mendes, My Chemical Romance, JoJo Siwa and Bleachers.
Other CAA-related moves included Caroline Yim and Zach Iser departing the agency in January and joining WME as partners and co-heads of the R&B team, followed by CAA promoting Joe Hadley and Mark Cheatham to co-heads of hip-hop and R&B touring.  
Scott Clayton made headlines this fall with the news that he had left WME and was joining United Talent Agency as co-head of global music and partner.
UTA is closing out 2021 with eight more hires, including Matthew Morgan, Buster Phillips and Marissa Smith also departing WME. Morgan has been named co-head of UTA Nashville.