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What’s Behind Red-Hot William Morris Memo

The note reinforces the view of those who think Jim Wiatt sold out the Morris agency to Endeavor.

Hollywood has been gap-jawed over the leak to TheWrap last Thursday of a memo revealing the salaries and stock awards to top executives at the William Morris (now WME) Agency.


But that’s nothing compared to the anger coursing through what’s left of William Morris, directed squarely at CEO Jim Wiatt, for one, but also at the company’s COO, Irv Weintraub, who was revealed to be making a salary commensurate with that of the agency’s chairman, Norman Brokaw, at $4.25 million.


Weintraub is the man who wrote the memo in 2007, and the guy most embarrassed by its revelation, after it was faxed by John Fogelman, who has made the board of WME, to a number in New York. (See original Waxword column.)








To some angry, knowledgeable insiders, the memo confirms that Wiatt betrayed the venerable brand of William Morris, using Fogelman and Weintraub to manage the old guard, Brokaw and Walt Zifkin (the guy noted as having made $7 million “for several years,” which may have been his payout as he left).


All of this reinforces the view of those who believe that Wiatt sold out William Morris in allowing it to merge — but in fact be taken over — by Endeavor.


As one in this camp told me: “All of this is really bad Shakespeare.”


So a few basic answers to a few basic questions are in order:


Why was the memo handwritten, in the age of computers?

Because it was top-secret. Weintraub’s memo was a specific response to a confidential request from the top of the agency, “with instructions not to dictate it to a secretary or use a computer,” according to one knowledgeable insider.


William Morris is known as a traditional kind of place. They still use faxes. They like them. (The institution of a “WMA Internet Division” in the late 1990s was greeted with mirth among insiders, who knew that even top agents like Jerry Katzman could not open their email accounts.)


What was the point of the memo?

It appears to have been written to examine the breakdown of compensation within the agency in the wake of the departure of major figures like tv department chief Sam Haskell, chief operating officer Steve Kram, and music agent Richard Rosenberg in December 2004. Those agents left after a series of conflicts with chairman Jim Wiatt. Haskell recently wote a book about it, called "Promises I Made My Mother."


It also makes reference to a quadrumvirate running the agency, and it proves that they have been pulling cash out of the agency after the departure of old guard members including Walt Zifkin, Jerry Katzman and Roger Davis.


What does it reveal that was not previously known?

Apart from the massive salaries that were being drawn by Wiatt, Wirtschafter and Weintraub, it shows the division of the assets of William Morris into first class and second class shares, demonstrated as A stock, and B stock.


The B stock is probably preferred, since it is restricted to Wiatt, Wirtschafter, Weintraub and Fogelman. (Agents are most furious about Weintraub, since he has no clients and does not bring revenue into the agency.)


There are two columns of numbers when it comes to the A stock, and that is still unexplained.


Why was John Fogelman faxing it to someone in New York last week?

He may have been seeking financial advice on his new deal as a result of the merger. He is probably cashing out on his WMA stock as a result of the merger.


Why was it being sent around to insiders, and ultimately leaked to TheWrap?

That’s a tough one. The consensus seems to be that someone wants to pressure Weintraub.


“Just perhaps, Weintraub needed a little push to take his exit deal and quietly remove his enormous hulk,” one insider writes, as in, “’Go speedily or we will embarrass you in the media, putz.’" 


Previously: Found: Explosive William Morris Memo


Here’s who’s who on the lists:


A stock
JMF = John Fogelman
JRW = Jennifer Rudolph Walsh
IW = Irv Weintraub, CFO
DZW = Dave Wirtschafter
JW = Jim Wiatt
JG = Jim Griffin
M. Itkin = Mark Itkin 
AK = Alan Kannof (no longer at WME)
Norman = Norman Brokaw, chairman
Peter G = Peter Grosslight
M. Itkin = Mark Itkin

B stock
JW – Wiatt
DZW = Wirtschafter
IW = Weintraub
JMF = Fogelman