CAA Plots Next Moves in Wake of UTA Defections

CAA is considering its next moves, following the earth-shattering upheaval of 10 agents defecting for UTA, which depleted its comedy department of talent.

CAA appears in damage-control mode and is putting on a good face that it’s business as usual. But sources say the managing partners held a meeting Wednesday morning to address employees’ concerns about the state of the agency and discuss how to proceed.

Sources who work with the agents characterized the gathering as a major pep rally to keep spirits high, with no one dwelling on any anxiety or worry in the marble hallways of the Century City agency.

While there was no talk about any immediate retaliatory recourse, several sources say they sense that aggressive actions could be taken in response to those who left. CAA has already promised to pursue legal action based on the employment contracts that the agency claims are in place.

Some people believe CAA could deploy other punitive tactics. For example, the agency could try to recruit high-ranking agents from UTA who are not name partners. Five of the departing CAA agents were given partner status at UTA, so the opportunity to strike back at UTA could prove tempting.

And, there’s always the possibility that CAA would attempt to poach top UTA clients whom they view as vulnerable. After “Mortdecai” flopped at the box office, there was speculation that Johnny Depp was talking to LBI Entertainment co-founder Rick Yorn about possibly coming on as a manager and help UTA with his representation, but those talks faded away and Depp decided to stick with just his longtime United Talent agent Tracy Jacobs.

However, some observers caution that aggressive poaching of top stars and agents would only make CAA appear desperate. “They just had a whole department gutted. If they go and poach one piece of talent or a couple agents it’s going to look like a weak response to everyone in town,” said one studio insider. “They are still the big dogs on the block — just take your punches and move on.”

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