UPDATED: After months of rumors, Paradigm Talent Agency have announced an agreement in principle under which Casey Wasserman’s Wasserman film will acquire Paradigm’s North American live music representation business and form a new operating unit, Paradigm reps confirmed to Variety.
Details of the new company, including name and configuration, will be shared by Wasserman after the transaction closes, expected in the second quarter of 2021. Reps for Wasserman declined comment, although sources say the company is likely to be called Wasserman Music.
According to announcement, the agreement to divest the music assets is the latest in a series of restructuring steps that were initiated by Paradigm CEO Sam Gores prior to the coronavirus pandemic but accelerated when the pandemic began to disrupt the entertainment industry and force cancellation or postponement of both live and filmed productions.
Terms of the pending deal were not disclosed, but last year an industry source pegged the value of Paradigm’s collected music operations at $150 million-$200 million. In 2019, Paradigm went far down the road with UTA in negotiations for an outright sale of the agency for what sources said was a little more than $300 million in cash.
While all agencies in the music space have been throttled by the sudden shutdown of the concert and event businesses, Paradigm was hit harder than many, with many agents either laid off or leaving the company. Paradigm had bulked up with a number of acquisition of music booking agencies and artist management boutiques in recent years, leaving it with substantial debt to service. The abrupt end of the touring business left the company in a financial pinch that forced the layoffs of more than 100 staffers and pay cuts for other employees last March. CEO Sam Gores’ decision to dramatically cut costs sparked a wrongful termination lawsuit from longtime Paradigm TV honcho Debbee Klein and much speculation that the agency will have to seek a partner such as Wasserman.
Paradigm continues to represent talent and literary clients, is in active discussion regarding strategic partners for its Talent and Literary business, and will be revealing that strategy at a later date. Paradigm plans to enter into a shared services agreement with Wasserman to ensure continuity of service to all music clients for its talent and literary services.
As part of the Paradigm restructuring, Tom Gores stepped in to provide financial backing and to assist in strategic planning and partnership negotiation with other industry players. He will provide financial backing to the new music venture as an equity partner.
In a statement, Paradigm CEO Sam Gores said: “This agreement is a win for all parties and a vital step on the restructuring path we embarked upon more than a year ago. It represents an important transition for the incredible music agents of Paradigm and the artists they so brilliantly serve. We are huge fans of Casey Wasserman and the company he’s built, and I am very pleased that he and his team will be at the helm of this important business line. It’s both thrilling and bittersweet to reach this agreement, transition to a new era for Paradigm, and initiate a stabilizing solution during a global pandemic that has created an existential crisis for our industry.”
The Wasserman firm runs a wide range of businesses focused on marketing and media rights. Casey Wasserman was a big force behind Los Angeles’ bid to bring the summer Olympic games back to the City of Angels in 2028. He was previously the owner of the Los Angeles Avengers arena football team.
Wasserman’s interest in a traditional Hollywood agency focused on music is evocative of his lineage. Lew Wasserman, who rose to become an innovative studio mogul with his purchase of Universal Pictures, first made his name booking bands for legendary Music Corp. of America founder Jules Stein.