Most of the leading agents at PFD, one of the U.K.’s oldest and largest talent agencies, have resigned to launch their own company after their £4 million ($8 million) management buyout bid was rejected by parent CSS Stellar.
Move coincides with Wednesday’s news that Caroline Michel has ankled as U.K. managing director of the William Morris Agency to become PFD’s chief executive.
More than a dozen agents, including Anthony Jones, Tim Corrie, Lindy King, Dallas Smith, Maureen Vincent and Pat Kavanagh, gave notice last week.
They represent a vast roster of clients, including Keira Knightley, Ricky Gervais, Richard Curtis, Kate Winslet, Mike Leigh and Alan Bennett, who collectively earn 75% of all PFD’s revenues.
Michel, a newcomer to the agency business, has relatively few clients to bring to PFD. She is a high-profile figure on the British literary scene who quit her successful publishing career to join WMA in 2005. Before that, she was managing director and publisher of Harper Press, the literary imprint of HarperCollins.
After years of corporate turmoil and shareholder in-fighting at the parent company, the agents tried to buy back their business this year.
But following a boardroom shakeup at CSS Stellar, and the arrival of new executive chairman David Buchler, this bid was rejected. Buchler fronts a consortium of investors that acquired a 30% stake in PFD for $8 million in August.
He told Daily Variety that Michel’s appointment sends out a positive signal about the board’s ambition to develop and grow PFD.
He admitted that the previous CSS Stellar regime had made mistakes handling PFD, adding, “The challenge is to build on the company’s successes.” William Morris chairman-CEO Jim Wiatt said: “Caroline Michel has been a tremendous colleague and friend over the past two years and has played a key role in the success of our U.K.-based business. I’m incredibly pleased that she has the opportunity to take the next step in her career, and we wish her the best of luck.”