CAA partner leaves agency for Letterman

After more than 40 years as an agent, CAA co-chairman and partner Lee Gabler is departing the tenpercentery world and joining David Letterman’s Worldwide Pants shingle in a top role.

Letterman has long been repped by Gabler and CAA, which was famously instrumental in moving the host from NBC to CBS.

According to Worldwide Pants prexy Rob Burnett, Gabler will remain in Los Angeles and serve as a consultant for the New York production company.

“He’s a trusted adviser, and one of the smartest guys we know,” Burnett told Daily Variety late Tuesday. “We brought him on to really continue a lot of the work that he has done for us in the past, advising and helping along our projects. He’s a good guy to have on our team.”

Led by Letterman and Burnett, Worldwide Pants was most recently behind ABC’s critically acclaimed but low-rated laffer “Knights of Prosperity,” which awaits word on whether it will return for a second season. The company was also a producer on the long-running CBS smash “Everybody Loves Raymond,” as well as quirky NBC fave “Ed.”

In addition to Letterman’s gabfest, Worldwide Pants also produces “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.” In film, the company produced the movie version of “Strangers with Candy.”

Considered a “class act” and one of the most influential execs in the TV business, Gabler had already stepped back from day-to-day operations of CAA’s TV department, handing the reins to Steve Lafferty in 2005. More recently, Gabler — who helped steer CAA to even greater heights after its mid-1990s leadership shuffle — had been focused on more strategic initiatives inside the agency. Insiders have been expecting an announcement from Gabler regarding his retirement from the company for months.

“After a long and wonderful career as an agent, I have decided that now is the time to take a different path,” Gabler said in a statement. “It has been a privilege to have been a part of CAA for nearly 25 years. The countless friendships with colleagues and clients, and the successes we have enjoyed together will remain with me always.

“Fortunately, I will continue to work closely with my colleagues at CAA in my new role with Dave and Worldwide Pants,” he said.

Gabler first began his career at New York’s Ashley Steiner Famous Artists tenpercentery (which became a part of ICM) in 1964. He moved to ICM’s west coast operations in 1970, serving as exec VP and head of worldwide TV. He moved to CAA in 1983, and had run the TV department since 1989. He was made partner 12 years ago.

“Lee’s indelible imprint on the culture and success of CAA is without question,” said CAA’s Bryan Lourd. “He has been a mentor to so many at the agency, a consummate champion for our clients, and, most of all, a friend to whom we all feel enormous gratitude.”

Gabler is married to Fox 2000 prexy Elizabeth Gabler; his daughter Jennifer Rawlings departed CAA for Endeavor in October.

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