While the power players at William Morris and Endeavor celebrated the creation of WME on Tuesday, their rivals were doing what agents do best: lick their chops.
Their colleagues at CAA, ICM and UTA are making no bones about the potential to profit from the in-fighting and departures.
Right away, certain agents are in play. On Monday David Lonner and Tom Strickler opted out of the new regime. On Tuesday, Endeavor’s literary agent Brian Lipson and WMA literary agent Richard Knapp made known their intentions to do the same.
Meanwhile, Morris’s tv department co-chief Mark Itkin, left off the board in the new configuration despite his high earning power, is left dangling. CAA is known to be interested in wooing him to their team.
Meanwhile, agents at WME’s competitors are betting some of the consolidated agency’s A-list clients will seek new representation, too. Endeavor and WMA clients include Adam Sandler, Keira Knightley, Shia LaBeouf, Michael Bay, Russell Crowe, Clint Eastwood and Denzel Washington. (See accompanying list of WME’s players.)
One could imagine a Jerry Maguire-like scene of competitive speed-dialing going on all day Tuesday at both at William Morris and Endeavor, and rival agencies too.
“The merger is going to present the other agencies with opportunities,” an executive inside one of the competing agencies told TheWrap.
The rival argument is that clients are going to suffer while the new merged agency is busy concentrating on itself.
He continued: “WME is going to be so focused on combining, they’re going to lose focus on what we’re supposed to be doing. Clients are going to feel the tension between their old representation team and their new one, or they’re going to feel neglected. They want to be the center of attention. Over the next month or two, WME is going to focus a lot of their energy on their own press.”
The executive adding that his company is already receiving calls from concerned WMA and Endeavor clients, but – of course – declined to say who.
Even sideline players feel that the larger size of the new company will be a serious issue. "There are issues to be careful of when agencies of this size get together,” said the Screen Actors Guild’s head of agency relations Zino Macaluso.
“You have to make sure that the performers that are represented by individual agencies will receive the same level of representation with the new entity, or if there will be attempts at poaching from other agencies that could destabilize the performer’s relationship with his/her agent.”
So far the mega-merger is already causing a wave of uncertainty in WMA’s Beverly Hills headquarters. One longtime WMA agent compared the mood to the aftermath of an earthquake. He said his fellow agents are feeling divided, confused and angry in the wake of Monday’s merger.
“Most young agents and support staff are in a fog,” he told TheWrap. The agent said that many senior staffers were upset that the unpopular COO Irv Weintraub would be retained in the merger. And they were equally upset that a Itkin was given short shrift.
"In Beverly Hills this week total jerks seem to have prevailed," the agent said. "The business plan has already thrown the group into factions — pro-packaging and anti-packaging — among a dozen other lesser issues."
Also unclear is what will be the fate of a sub-plot for the formation of a new talent agency comprised of dissatisfied William Morris agents. One agent involved in that group said that a meeting on the subject was pushed toward the second week of May.