WME’s company retreat

The merged agency takes time for three-day bonding session

Nine months after WMA and Endeavor merged agencies, WME is making time for company bonding.

WME launched its first off-site retreat Wednesday at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa in Rancho Mirage. On the first day of the three-day powwow, Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell were said to have presided over a freewheeling gathering focused on mapping out the future of the superagency.

After the usual meetings and panels, Wednesday wrapped up with a company roast by client Jeffrey Ross.

The atmosphere has been very collegial,” a source said. “But it has been pretty collaborative since the merger happened. It’s just a little more relaxed here.”

Thursday’s sked featured such morale-building guests as author Malcolm Gladwell. The bestselling author and New Yorker scribe customized a speech Thursday morning based on his “Outliers” book that explained how organizations become great organizations. Gladwell used the analogy of Fleetwood Mac, which — like WME — had its share of change before becoming a legendary rock group.

While the switchboards remained largely silent at WME’s HQ in Beverly Hills, staffers in Rancho Mirage were treated to guest James Lipton’s “Inside the Agents Studio” — a sendup of his “Inside the Actors Studio” TV show — where he interviewed agenting “legends” Ed Limato and Robert Newman.

An insider said the retreat was intended as an opportunity for the agency to come together as one united group. This week, it got a little leaner, shedding a reported 150 clients. Tenpercenteries frequently shed clients in January, though 150, if true, is a big number even for one of the Big Five agencies.

Some retreaters were said to be distracted by the storm surrounding client Conan O’Brien, who is trying to settle out of his NBC contract.