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Lindner brings WMA big news

Agent anchors a deal with tenpercentery

Ken Lindner, agent to Matt Lauer and Elizabeth Vargas, has partnered with William Morris Agency in a move that will give the world’s largest talent agency a bigger presence in the news biz.

Deal adds Lindner’s roster to WMA’s already-formidable East Coast staff of news agents, who rep Lou Dobbs, Geraldo Rivera, Larry King and Bill Hemmer.

WMA and Ken Lindner & Associates will collaborate in signing and representing clients in news and hosting, creating a more powerful No. 2 to Gotham-based NS Bienstock, the dominant agency in the news business.

Deal caps a long search by Lindner for a partner. His agency, while tiny, is a big player in the niche business of repping news talent.

As lines blur between news and entertainment, some of the most lucrative opportunities come from outside the traditional news nets and network news departments as on-air personalities increasingly look to “cross over” into entertainment gigs.

ABC’s Meredith Vieira, for example, will host both “Today” and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” this fall; CBS’ Julie Chen is news anchor for “The Early Show” and host of “Big Brother.”

“All the rules and boundaries have seemingly changed,” WMA chief exec Jim Wiatt said. “These opportunities are healthy for the news and hosting business.”

Niche agencies have long looked to the majors to package deals outside their areas of expertise; the Lindner-WMA deal enshrines that relationship and gives the Lindner agency a boost to market itself to new talent.

“My goal as a talent rep is to enable clients to fulfill their full potential,” Lindner said. “I believe this relationship with WMA — the top agency for reality-based packaging, acting and commercials — will help our clients to accomplish this.”

Ken Lindner & Associates will remain a separate company, and no money changed hands, according to sources familiar with the deal.

Lindner, a former veep at WMA, left the agency in 1988. In addition to Vargas and Lauer, Lindner reps NBC’s Lester Holt and Natalie Morales.

It’s a business modeled after Richard Leibner’s NS Bienstock, which for many years had a virtual monopoly on the news biz’s biggest stars and today represents Diane Sawyer, Bob Schieffer and Bill O’Reilly.

WMA already has a large broadcast department based in Gotham and led by Henry Reisch, Wayne Kabak and Jim Griffin.

“Our relationship with Ken Lindner’s company makes it a stronger business for us,” Wiatt said.

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