With chilled champagne growing warm and hot pizzas cooling, Endeavor’s nine partners waited until well past 10 p.m. on Sunday night to welcome Patrick Whitesell. They would wait in vain.
Whitesell, having taken in a premiere on Sunday afternoon, spent some five hours that evening notifying and negotiating his exit with CAA topper Richard Lovett in talks that lasted until midnight.
When it was over, Whitesell, CAA’s co-head of motion picture talent department, had defected to become Endeavor’s 10th partner. He reps a slew of high-profile thesps including Drew Barrymore, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Insiders at CAA say that all three thesps would likely follow him, along with longtime clients Jada Pinkett Smith and new signings like Jerry O’Connell (“Dracula 2000”) and Hugh Jackman (“The X Men”).
“I think in the end, what attracted me was the idea of contributing to the vision of where this company is going,” Whitesell said, adding that “I’m going to be a part of something that is very exciting.”
Whitesell also reps thesps Jessica Alba, Jennifer Aniston, Christian Bale, Natasha McElhone, Alan Rickman, Gary Sinise, Kimberly Williams and Sam Worthington — all seen as potentially accompanying Whitesell to Endeavor. (Whitesell’s CAA clients Jon Bon Jovi, Jordana Brewster, Kate Hudson and Craig Kilborn are thought likely to stay with CAA.)
While a CAA spokeswoman would not comment on the company’s internal affairs, insiders there say CAA’s top brass has made efforts to create a profit participation pool for top CAA agents — but with the caveat that those agents taking the plunge into the pool must sign noncompete clauses. CAA is an agency known for operating with handshakes, not agent contracts; that, say the insiders, didn’t sit well with Whitesell and led to his ankling for Endeavor.
Whitesell previously had been promoted to co-head of the talent department along with longtime agent Rick Kurtzman. At that time, CAA managing director David O’Connor praised Whitesell as part of an “invaluable” team of assets that included Kurtzman as well as co-heads of motion picture lit Rand Holston and Risa Gertner.
At Endeavor, he will help run its talent department and the agency itself.
Whitesell joined CAA’s film department in 1995. Previously, he had worked as an agent for United Talent Agency and before that, Intertalent.
A CAA spokeswoman said she did not anticipate any further personnel departures, but added that Whitesell’s exit had come as a surprise.