Inside Move: Percentery pandemonium

Agencies go back-to-basics, focus on talent

HOLLYWOOD — After going five years without an agent, Martin Scorsese decided to sign with Endeavor last week. But the most surprising thing about the move is that the news could almost get lost in the sudden torrent of agency shifts.

The week also saw Ed Limato sign a five-year contract with ICM (killing rumors of his exit), while Writers & Artists locked James Gandolfini‘s rep David Brownstein out of his office and slapped him with a $10 million lawsuit. (The agency also lost Gandolfini as a client.)

And that doesn’t even include longtime ICM agent Tracy Brennan (with clients Brittany Murphy and Kate Beckinsale) hightailing for CAA — an agency that seems intent on signing every famous woman in America other than the Statue of Liberty.

The bottom line on all the new percentery palpitations? It’s the talent, stupid.

Agencies have limited means to dodge the current economic slump. It’s not going to be corporate consulting; that was once hoped to be a cash cow, but the windfall never materialized.

And with the studios keen to trim bottom lines, there’s pressure on all but the top stars’ salaries — meaning agencies are looking to shore up their rosters and make the most of their talent.

The back-to-basics game plan was also evidenced last week at management shingle the Firm, which laid off six managers. The company abandoned its plan for global multimedia domination and is now reconfiguring as a high-end boutique (less Target, more Barney’s).

Down the line, the trend could mean fewer shops and higher prices for top talent.

It’s easy to read too much into why Jennifer Lopez left Endeavor for CAA, or why Dave Chappelle signed with UTA or why Michael Douglas has decided he wants new representation. After all, they’re actors and sometimes they simply change reps.

But for the agencies, one thing is clear: In today’s market, there’s no such thing as too much of a good thing.

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