William Morris Re-Ups Pic Heads

In an effort to head off further defections and to dispel ambiguity over leadership of its motion picture division, the William Morris Agency last week signed the interim heads of that department, Mike Simpson and John Burnham, to longterm contracts.

Outside sources said the renewals were for three years.

WMA was guarded in its comment, but did not dispute that the move is calculated to keep Simpson in particular from jumping ship to Creative Artists Agency, as had been reported he would do if he were not placated at William Morris.

Since Burnham’s services also were valued, and he and Simpson already were in tandem, the new deal was extended to him as well.

“We were happy with what they were doing, and obviously we made whatever arrangements were necessary for them to stay on,” WMA executive v.p. Larry Auerbach said.

Auerbach declined to disclose the length or any other details of the new contracts.

Neither Simpson, new WMA president Jerry Katzman nor chairman Norman Brokaw could be reached for comment. Auerbach indicated he was speaking in their behalf.

He denied a report from a source inside the agency that a major contributing factor to the recent run of defections was agency freezing or suspension of yearend bonuses. He stated there was no bonus freeze or suspension, but he would not state whether bonus increases had been put on hold.

Auerbach said only one agent – whom he would not identify – left “over dissatisfaction with funds. Nobody else left [ for that reason].” But he did not deny that some were unhappy when they failed to get anticipated increases.

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