Even as the shakeout from the Endeavor-WMA merger continues, leaders of the newly minted WME are planning to move aggressively next week to begin running the company as a unified entity. The company’s debut is set for Tuesday.
Staffers from WMA and Endeavor offices in New York and WMA’s outposts in London, Nashville, Miami Beach and Shanghai were skedded to be flown into Los Angeles this weekend.
A company party is planned for Monday at the Brentwood home of WME co-CEO Ari Emanuel, followed Tuesday by a daylong powwow at the Regent Beverly Wilshire, which happens to be next door to WMA.
The merger agreement struck on April 27 should formally close by Monday or Tuesday, after state labor commissioners in California and New York give their final blessing to the union.
But the aftershocks will be felt for some time. The town is buzzing about the prospect that the combined entity will cut a large number of clients as it streamlines its roster after last week’s layoffs of dozens of agents, the vast majority of them from WMA.
There’s also sure to be some post-merger wrangling for WME with ex-WMA agents who were in the middle of dealmaking on behalf of clients at the time the layoffs came down. Anecdotal reports from some pinkslipped staffers indicate that WME is playing hardball on commission-related payouts.
There has also been some grumbling about the severance terms for staffers who were not under contract. At the same time, many of the ex-WMA agents were under long-term contracts with the agency that will be honored or settled out.
All of these variables are keeping a number of prominent showbiz attorneys busy helping to guide their ex-WMA clients through the post-layoff process.
Looking ahead, now that the nitty-gritty details of the merger are nearly done, co-CEOs Emanuel, Patrick Whitesell and Dave Wirtschafter and TV department head Rick Rosen are said to be focused on ensuring that the combined forces begin to speak with one voice in the marketplace.
The Endeavor alums are particularly focused on the challenge of infusing the now much larger entity with the company culture — hard-driving but still close-knit — that they view as being integral to Endeavor’s rise in just 14 years to the top echelon of tenpercenteries.
Film and TV agents from the WMA side will relocate to Endeavor’s Wilshire Boulevard offices. Agents from WMA’s music and commercials wing and administrative/backoffice staffers will be consolidated at WMA’s El Camino Drive buildings. WMA chief exec Jim Wiatt, who is segueing to an emeritus role at WME, will keep an office at WMA through January.
By the end of next year, WME will move into new digs on Beverly Drive, a move that was set in motion several years ago by WMA.
The future of WMA’s and Endeavor’s indie film units was settled Wednesday when word emerged that William Morris Independent vets Cassian Elwes and Rena Ronson were exiting the company and that Endeavor’s Graham Taylor would run the merged operation (Daily Variety, May 28).
A big lingering question is the fate of the WMA offices in Shanghai and Miami Beach. Shanghai office head Grace Chen is expected to remain with WME. The Miami, run by Raul Mateu, reps a slew of Latin music artists, including Luis Miguel and Juanes.
Another question mark is the future of WMA’s sports division, which handles marketing and endorsement deals for athletes including Kevin Garnett, Alex Rodriguez, Serena Williams and Dwayne Wade.
The group is run by ex-tennis player Jill Smoller and Philip Button, with an assist from Wirtschafter, who had taken particular interest in the sports-celeb arena in recent years. It’s unclear if it will be as much of a priority for WME as it had been for WMA. Among the Gotham-based WMA agents let go last week was Lon Rosen, Magic Johnson’s longtime agent, who repped baseball mega-star Rodriguez with Button.
Another area of overlap is in corporate marketing and consulting. WMA’s division has been headed by Paul Bricault, with a client roster that includes MySpace, GM, Starbucks and Hasbro. Endeavor Marketing, headed by Mark Dowley, reps such blue-chip brands as Revlon and American Express. Ad giant InterPublic Group bought a stake in Endeavor Marketing in 2005.
WMA and Endeavor alums will jointly run WME’s commercial department, with WMA alum Cary Berman and Endeavor’s Jessica Thomas serving as co-heads. The WMA side brings the higher volume of existing blurb biz.