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WME to Shrink 20% of Staff Next Week With Layoffs and Furloughs

The layoffs come as Endeavor faces pressure from the continued COVID-19 shutdowns

WME will begin laying off and furloughing staffers across the agency next week, with about 20% of the company expected to be impacted.

“WME is reducing its workforce by approximately 20% as a result of COVID-19’s impact on our business. We appreciate the contributions of our former colleagues, and out of respect for their privacy, we will not be commenting on the status of specific employees,” a spokesperson for WME said. “While we are making these difficult decisions now to safeguard our business, we believe in the resilience of our team and our industry.”

The layoffs and furloughs will begin Monday, but the agency began notifying staff on Thursday. Out of the company’s 1,500 employees, approximately 300 people will be impacted, with a limited number of employees expected to be furloughed and placed on reduced work for reduced pay arrangements, an individual with knowledge told TheWrap.

The layoffs will impact staff at all levels and across all departments. The cuts are primarily among executives (non-agents) and support staff, with the majority being in WME’s music department given its reliance on mass gatherings.

WME parent company Endeavor said two weeks ago that the company would have to implement layoffs, furloughs and pay reductions at WME and IMG that it expected would impact one-third of the company.

Endeavor, like many businesses, has been hard hit by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has effectively ground Hollywood to a halt.

Earlier this month Endeavor said it planned to cut pay by up to 30% for all staffers. That was after temporarily laying off roughly 250 operational positions who weren’t able to perform their jobs from home.

Endeavor has a mound of debt on its books, incurred mainly from its $2.3 billion acquisition of media, sports and fashion giant IMG, and its $4 billion acquisition of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. As of last September, when the company nixed a planned initial public offering, Endeavor reported having nearly $5 billion in debt.

Some onlookers within the industry anticipate the company may end up needing to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but Endeavor has made no such proclamation.

In 2012, Endeavor, then called William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, sold a 31% minority stake to private equity firm Silver Lake Partners for $200 million. That investment helped propel the company’s growth, and should all else fail, the company may look to Silver Lake again for relief.