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Jim Wiatt, ex-William Morris Chief, Takes Content Strategy Job With AOL (updated)

The ex-chairman of William Morris finds a new perch helping AOL shape its content strategy, exits board of directors

Jim Wiatt, the subject of much speculation after a bruising exit from William Morris Endeavor last year, will be joining the Internet portal AOL as a strategic advisor to develop content partnerships across media and entertainment.

Wiatt was already on the AOL board, and will be leaving as he takes an active (though not full-time) position with the company.

He will report directly to CEO Tim Armstrong, with whom he is known to be close.


In an interview with TheWrap, Wiatt said he would be looking to strike partnerships with content creators.

"The idea is to try to work with some bigger companies and content creators to create content, but also do deals with companies that own content," he said.

Wiatt said he planned to work frequently out of AOL's Beverly Hills and New York offices.

For AOL, the move takes the portal deeper into a full-blown strategy to pursue original content.

The portal has made a big push into creating news content; Wiatt seems likely to be instrumental in finding deals to create entertainment-oriented content. 

In a prepared statement Armstrong said Wiatt would spend "more of his time creating partnerships for AOL as we expand our focus on developing original content. Jim moves among the great content creators of our day, and his expertise in recognizing opportunities and structuring relationships is exactly what we need."

For Wiatt, the position gives him a much-needed new perch after the merger of William Morris Agency with Endeavor Talent Agency last year, in which he emerged the loser.

Wiatt exited the company he ran just three weeks after the merger, in May 20009, which has since been run by former Endeavor chiefs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell.

Since then, there has been much speculation about where Wiatt might next land.

Said Wiatt on Wednesday: "Everything and anything is open, but there's only so much time. We really want to focus on important strategic relationships."

The company made the announcement on Wednesday.

Here's the full press release: 




Wiatt Will Serve as Consultant, Stepping Down from AOL Board to Take on New Role



New York, NY – September 8, 2010 – AOL Inc. [NYSE: AOL] announced today that Jim Wiatt, former chairman and chief executive of the William Morris Agency, will assume the new role of strategic advisor to AOL.


Wiatt, who will report directly to Chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong, will advise the company on a wide range of issues, helping to expand AOL’s development of content, partnerships and relationships across the entertainment and media worlds. Wiatt is stepping down from AOL’s Board of Directors to take on the new role, which he will begin immediately. 


“Jim has made outstanding contributions to the AOL Board, but we are grateful to now have more of his time creating partnerships for AOL as we expand our focus on developing original content,” said Armstrong. “Jim moves among the great content creators of our day, and his expertise in recognizing opportunities and structuring relationships is exactly what we need.”


“I believed in this company’s vision from the moment I met Tim and the AOL team,” said Wiatt. “This is a unique opportunity, and I am excited about working closely with Tim to deliver compelling results for our consumers and advertisers.”


AOL aims to be the global leader in sourcing, creating, producing and delivering high-quality, trusted, original content to consumers. Existing content partnerships include Cambio (www.cambio.com), a new online network founded with The Jonas Group and MGX Lab, which combines original programming with interactivity to offer "entertainment 2.0" for teens. AOL is also working with A Squared Entertainment LLC, a children's media company formed by industry and marketing veterans Andy Heyward and Amy Moynihan. A Squared and AOL have teamed to create purpose-driven entertainment brands for children featuring iconic personalities including Warren Buffett, Gisele Bündchen, Martha Stewart and the late Carl Sagan. This week, AOL and Telepictures Productions announced a partnership in which AOL and The Ellen DeGeneres Show website will share promotion, traffic and content. The partnership will expose the show's site to the millions of AOL users who are in Ellen's key demographic of women ages 25 to 54. Additionally, the site's current audience, which has grown considerably over the last year, will be exposed to the depth of original content on AOL that is created for this same demographic.


“At AOL, we want to delight consumers with content that’s high quality, high impact and highly creative. We want consumers turning to the Web for entertainment that’s as good, or better, than anything they can find offline and that fits their increasingly multi-screen lifestyle,” said Armstrong.


Wiatt has worked as an independent consultant since June 2009. He previously served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the William Morris Agency from 1999 until 2009, overseeing all areas of the entertainment company, including motion picture, television, music, publishing, theater, digital, sports marketing, business development, investments and corporate consulting. Before joining WMA, Wiatt was Co-Chairman and Co-CEO of International Creative Management, a talent management company. A graduate of the University of Southern California, Wiatt is a member of the Board of Councilors of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, former Chairman and current member of the Board of the Los Angeles Police Foundation and on the Board of Directors of the Music Center of Los Angeles.