After gathering a strike team of experienced Hollywood agents for his new management venture, CAA and Entertainment One alum Pete Micelli plans to take aim at the industry’s top talent and top talent agencies.
The unnamed venture had been christened Moxie Media in materials circulated to prospective investors (insiders say the company name has since changed) and as a recruiting tool, according to a 20-page document Variety obtained.
Micelli’s plans came into a focus this past weekend after a flurry of high-profile resignations by agents including CAA’s Jack Whigham and Dave Bugliari, UTA’s Susie Fox and Mackenzie Roussos and WME’s Rich Cook, who are all said to be joining Micelli.
The new firm is betting big on mega celebrities, “the top 1%” in entertainment and sports, not only as clients but as content farms. The management company will offer “Tiffany-level” representation; develop and acquire co-ownership in celebrity-driven companies (Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop were among example photos used in the pitch materials); production services for clients’ film and television projects; and sponsorship opportunities that jibe with celebrity brands.
The group is also promising clients cash flow amid COVID-19, and a plan to win unrepresented writers as war continues to rage between the Writers Guild of America and CAA and WME.
“The current representation system is broken, lack of transparency has eroded trust,” the strategy reads. “Big agencies do not spend most of their time on the largest earners, agents are distracted by bloated client lists. Smaller firms don’t have high-level executives/staff while larger firms have become too big.”
While founding staff will operate as managers from henceforth, there’s plenty of agency bravado in their pitch, which asserts that all of the new company’s principals “are higher-level and more established in the business than when Mike Ovitz and Ron Meyer formed CAA or when Ari Emanuel and Tom Stickler founded Endeavor.”
Among the venture’s more ambitious pledges is a cap on the number of clients a given manager can represent. There will also be an aggressive pursuit of literary business, “recruiting top literary agents to develop a representation business of high-level showrunners for the first time in the history of the management space,” the strategy said.
An advisory board of leaders from Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Washington DC and Wall Street is also being touted. The purpose of the currently unnamed group, according to the pitch, is to “help shape business opportunities around a celebrity and their specific narrative.”
Michelli’s organization also sees an opportunity to “curate” content the media giants that clients can own. Inaugural clients of the venture are reported to be Bradley Cooper, Tom Hardy, Keira Knightley, Taylor Kitsch, and Michael Fassbender.
“The legacy studios (MGM / Lionsgate / Sony etc) business is built around global distribution and finance. The media empires of today aren’t interested in those services,” the pitch reads. “Specificity will replace the legacy studios and celebrity companies will be the biggest growth opportunity over the next 10 years.”
Reaction to the company’s forming and the pivot of agents to the management space was met with either shock, or a total lack thereof. The monolithic talent agencies have been struggling for years to reconcile excessive growth and stick to their knitting with client services. The crunch has resulted in a massive debt load at Endeavor, escalated by the WGA battle. None of the majors, including UTA and ICM, was prepared for the devastating blow from the coronavirus, which has resulted in cost cutting and either layoffs or furloughs at each firm.
“It’s more impressive that they managed to do this in secret for so long,” said one top film and TV executive of Micelli and his cohorts and their months-long formation process.
Others, including talent, reacted negatively to one of the new firm’s investors — Steven Cohen, the notorious venture capitalist whose tangles with the Securities and Exchange Commission is said to have inspired a series arch on Showtime’s “Billions.” Cohen was called out on social media for having donated to the Trump campaign, though other insiders pointed to his wife’s contributions to Pete Buttigieg’s presidential run.
Micelli spent more than 20 years as a top TV and packaging agent at CAA. He was known for his entrepreneurial approach to financing and packaging content for global buyers. In 2018 he segued to Entertainment One as chief strategy officer for TV, film and digital. He exited the company, which was acquired last year by Hasbro, in April. He’s been working on the business plan for Moxie Media since the spring, sources said.
The migration to Moxie Media reflects the rapid shifts and downsizing at the largest tenpercenteries, a process that several industry insiders note has only just begun. The day after word of Micelli’s ambitious management venture broke, top WME agent Phil Sun announced he would depart the agency to form representation firm M88, with Charles D. King’s media company Macro.
Sun — who represented Rihanna, Idris Elba, Donald Glover and Lena Waithe, among others — has already recruited stars like Michael B. Jordan to join him in the new firm, which will handle filmmakers, actors, and writers. Jordan will remain a WME client.
Despite the sudden and potentially seismic change these moves represent, Endeavor honcho Partrick Whitesell wished Sun well, saying “our industry needs companies like M88 now more than ever, and we couldn’t be more proud that Phil is making this move.”