Ari Emanuel Rejects Buying UTA, Dismisses CAA/ICM Deal: ‘They Bought 5 Incredible TV Writers’

Endeavor head says merger is merely “validating my strategy in 2008” at Vox Media’s Code Conference

ari emanuel endeavor
Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

Ari Emanuel wasn’t fazed by Monday’s news that Creative Artists Agency is acquiring ICM Partners, essentially dismissing the deal’s importance while speaking with Kara Swisher at Vox Media’s Code Conference.

“ICM has not been what it used to be 15 years ago,” the Endeavor CEO said. “I think what [CAA] bought was five incredible TV writers… a very good book business and a very good soccer rep business out of Europe.”

Emanuel also said that CAA’s move was just “validating my strategy in 2008” to merge Endeavor with William Morris, saying that his agency didn’t spend money to make the merger happen and that he has focused on “organically” growing WME’s representation business. “They’re just coming to it 13 years later…Mazel Tov.” he said.

Emmanuel also rejected the idea that Endeavor might try to gobble up rival agency United Talent Agency should it go up for sale. He explained that the representation side of Endeavor has been “growing double digits year-over-year” and is “the core feeder of our business,” and they don’t need to acquire anything more from another company.

There’s also the fact that as Endeavor also expands the ownership side with sports acquisitions like Professional Bull Riding and the wildly popular UFC, it is also moving into sports betting, acquiring OpenBet for $1.2 billion on Monday.

But while Emanuel isn’t interested in an agency merger race, the CAA/ICM merger is part of a wider consolidation trend happening throughout the entertainment industry. Earlier Tuesday at CodeCon, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar predicted that there would be “fewer media companies within the next 10 years,” continuing the process that has happened in recent years with Disney’s purchase of 20th Century Fox, Amazon’s pickup of MGM, and AT&T’s $43 billion merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery.

In an interview with TheWrap on Monday, CAA co-chair Bryan Lourd said that his agency and ICM would distinguish themselves from Endeavor by putting more investment into representation, a move that is being made even as agencies across Hollywood are being required to phase out lucrative packaging fees by next summer after a nearly two-year labor dispute with the Writers Guild of America.

“We’ve always been focused on clients and athletes in the last 12 years, and what we can do to provide them with the resources and advocacy to help them realize their dream,” Lourd said. “We want to double down in representation. We’re driving towards it, not away from it.”