Ari Emanuel Slams CAA at Fortune Conference: ‘They’re Still Stuck in the ’90s’

The co-CEO of WME says by the end of the year “we will exceed every number that was in the plan” to merge with IMG

Last Updated: July 14, 2015 @ 7:17 AM

Ari Emanuel, co-CEO of William Morris Endeavor, said his rival CAA is “still stuck in the ’90s” and he no longer considers them a major competitor.

Appearing with his older brother Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen on Monday, Ari Emanuel responded to a question from TheWrap about the state of the agency landscape and his longtime rival Creative Artists Agency.

“I don’t even think about them,” he said. “They’re a third of our size. I compete with them on three things – I kind of think about them. A third of the time. Ish.”

He continued: “They were [our top rival]. They’re still stuck in the ’90s.” He did not elaborate except to say that WME was shifting its business away from talent representation into businesses that it owns and operates.

Creative Artists Agency fell behind William Morris Endeavor in size after the latter acquired sports behemoth IMG in spring 2014 in a $2.4 billion deal. CAA recently lost a series of high-profile agents, mainly in the comedy talent department, to United Talent Agency.

Emanuel said that despite naysayers who said that WME had taken on too much debt in acquiring IMG the merged company was ahead of financial targets.

“We’re in great shape right now,” he said. “We’re ahead of plan by at least 12-18 months financially. By the end of the year we will hit every number, exceed every number that was in the plan.”

Asked whether the company would go public in an IPO in the wake of the investment by private equity firm Silver Lake in 2013, Emanuel said: “That’s probably an option. I’m not thinking about it right now.”

TheWrap pressed Emanuel to confirm that he had been behind the “CAAn’t” poster campaign that papered the Century City mall two years ago. He responded only: “Whoever did — I thought it was creative.”

The two brothers bantered during the interview, saying they spoke several times a day — but short-form. Said Rahm Emanuel: “We have conversations without verbs, adjectives or pronouns.”

TheWrap reached out to CAA for comment, but did not hear back immediately.

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