Endeavor shook up the talent agency landscape Wednesday by luring ICM motion picture head Robert Newman and ICM TV lit department head Matt Solo. Each joins the partnership ranks at Endeavor, which now has 21 partners.
However, Newman’s exit was a jaw-dropper, bringing Endeavor a client list that includes Danny Boyle, Guillermo Del Toro, Mike Figgis, Baz Luhrmann, Paul McGuigan and Robert Rodriguez.
Jonathan Demme was deemed likely to stay with ICM CEO Jeff Berg, who repped the helmer with Newman.
Solo’s arrival wasn’t entirely a surprise: It was clear last month that he would part ways with ICM (Daily Variety, Dec. 7) and he had a close relationship with former ICM TV head Nancy Josephson, who joined Endeavor last year in the wake of ICM’s acquisition of TV boutique Broder Webb Chervin Silbermann.
While the BWCS acquisition has provided momentum in ICM’s television department, it has not shored up a film division that has suffered the exits of numerous film agents and clients in recent years.
A 17-year ICM vet, Newman has been loyal both to the agency and to Berg. His eclectic list of filmmakers has been built mostly from the ground up, signing many of them when they were just getting started at the film festivals Newman haunts with regularity.
Over the years, Newman has spurned several overtures to head specialty film shingles. He also stayed put when Jim Wiatt and Dave Wirtschafter exited ICM to join WMA, bringing numerous star agents with them.
The decision by the 48-year-old Newman to exit was attributed largely to his desire for a change of scenery when his contract came up. He found that opportunity at Endeavor, an agency that has expanded aggressively and now appears to have established itself as the one closest to leader CAA.
Endeavor, which was formed 12 years ago by ICM defectors Ari Emanuel, Rick Rosen, Tom Strickler and David Greenblatt, has now bolstered its partnership ranks with three ICM agents and their clients since the BWCS acquisition was announced. Endeavor and ICM have been rumored to have discussed a possible merger of their agencies.
Endeavor would seem a good fit for Newman. His business is similar to that of John Lesher, who left as partner at Endeavor to run Paramount Vantage.
While rumors were circulating around town that Newman didn’t get a title he coveted or wasn’t confident he’d have enough of a voice in the new ICM, the fact that he remained at ICM headquarters hours after his exit was announced by Endeavor indicated that his exit was cordial and emotional. Insiders at the agency said he remained a strong voice at the agency and that he got along well with Chris Silbermann.
Said Newman: “I’m honored that I’ve been asked to become a partner at Endeavor and I join the agency with the confidence that I’ll have the greatest resources to support the artists with whom I work.”
Civility aside, there was already jockeying for the clients repped by Newman and the 45-year-old Solo.
Newman’s ICM client list also included Brian Helgeland, “Trainspotting” writer John Hodge, Iain Softley, Todd Solondz, Whit Stillman and Lee Tamahori.
Solo, meanwhile, has a client list that includes “The Shield” creator Shawn Ryan and exec producer Kurt Sutter, “House” creator David Shore, “That 70s Show” exec producers Josh Sternin and Jeff Ventimilia, “The Winner” creator Ricky Blitt, “Bones” creator Hart Hanson, “Kitchen Confidential” creator Dave Hemingson, “Huff” exec producer Art Monterastelli, “Numbers” exec producer Ken Sanzel, and “Grey’s Anatomy” co-exec producer Mark Wilding.
Said Solo, “I’m thrilled to be joining Endeavor and creating even more opportunities for my clients. I’m excited to rejoin so many friends there, including fellow partners Nancy Josephson, Richard Weitz, Paul Haas and Jason Spitz.”
While many in town felt that ICM’s film department had suffered a terrible blow, insiders said that the agency would survive it, as UTA survived the exit of Dan Aloni to CAA. ICM continues to rep such directors as “The Queen” helmer Stephen Frears, Woody Allen, Nancy Meyers, Bernardo Bertolucci, Rob Marshall, Niki Caro, Mike Newell, James L. Brooks, Roman Polanski and Billy Ray.
Through a spokesman, the agency wished Newman well, but added: “ICM has just experienced a year of tremendous growth, and this path will continue.”
From a perception point, several agency watchers said that the incline of that path grew steeper with Newman’s exit.