Why the William Morris/Endeavor Combo Is a Hollywood Game-Changer

Now people want to know the juicy goods: Who’s staying, and who’s going? And who’s angry?

After William Morris and Endeavor finally got hitched on Monday, the big question around town was, "Now what?"


The newly named WME Entertainment will be going through all the normal phases of consolidation, but in Hollywood, people want to know the juicy goods: Who’s staying, and who’s going?


And who’s angry?


Already, some major names are out. WMA agent David Lonner has said he will not be part of the new regime; Lonner represents J.J. Abrams, Alexander Payne and Jon Turtletaub, among others. And Endeavor’s co-founder and partner Tom Strickler also has said he will not be part of the new regime, choosing instead to retire from the talent agency game.


These two departures showcase what’s certainly to come: The company’s mere existence will create ripple effects throughout the industry as clients and agents are sure to move to rival homes once — or even before — the dust settles. 


The new company’s creation is, without a doubt, an industry-shifting jolt to the entertainment business at large. WME is now a company that will automatically rival CAA as the top agency in town both in terms of mojo and clients.


And just a look at the board indicates that this will be a very intricate marriage. 


Jim Wiatt will be the new chairman, while Ari Emanuel, Patrick Whitesell and Dave Wirtschafter will be co-CEOs. Wiatt, Emanuel, Whitesell and Wirtschafter will join company directors John Fogelman, Peter Grosslight, Rick Rosen, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh and Adam Venit on the nine-member board.


Ironically, Wiatt and Emanuel worked together already, in 1995, when Wiatt was president of ICM and Emanuel left along with Stricker, Rosen and David Greenblatt — to form Endeavor. Day-to-day work will apparently be managed by Emanuel and Whitsell. 


As for client lists, the marquee names now represented by WME are staggering. Endeavor represents Adam Sandler, Keira Knightley and Shia LaBeouf. William Morris reps Michael Bay, Russell Crowe, Clint Eastwood and Denzel Washington. Among dozens of other A-listers.


Interestingly, Mel Gibson, now a WMA client, will be repped by the shop co-run by Emanuel, who targeted him years ago after Gibson’s anti-Semitic comments.

The merger brings together two cultures, as William Morris brings depth and history — it was founded in 1898 — and Endeavor is only 14 years old but packages plenty of primetime TV shows; William Morris also has a very big music division and is strong on reality TV. William Morris also has international posts in places like London and Shanghai.


The agency will, of course, have to be pared down. As it stands now, more than 300 reps would make up the company, a personnel roster too top-heavy to withstand. But any consolidation would be par for the course in an entertainment environment that is seeing fewer movies being made and TV shows ordered.


Agencies, to be expected, are being hit hard due to an economic environment that is forcing studios and networks to rethink production strategies.


The deal is expected to close in the next few weeks after approval from labor groups in L.A. and N.Y. as well as approval from the Justice Department.


WME is expected to move into a new Beverly Hills location by spring of 2010.