William Morris Endeavor seems to be heading into 2021 as the only Hollywood agency not cleared by the Writers Guild of America to represent writers as WGA West’s negotiating committee announced that it has rejected WME’s latest franchise agreement offer.
WME said last week when it sent its proposal that it was willing to work through the holidays to reach a deal, which would end the 20-month walkout that the guild ordered in an attempt to eliminate packaging fees and majority ownership of affiliate production outlets, both of which the WGA calls conflicts of interest.
“WME has updated the terms of our proposal and submitted it to the WGA in a good-faith effort to jumpstart our discussions. We want to find a way forward with the Guild and return to representing our writer-clients,” the agency said last week.
But WGA said in a memo on Tuesday that the WME offer “substantially alters” the terms that CAA and its private equity owner, TPG, agreed to earlier this month in its own franchise agreement. As part of the agreement, CAA and TPG agreed to place its ownership of Wiip in a blind trust until the ownership stake was sold down to 20%, which WGA says WME has not agreed to along with any potential penalties for not complying with the 20% ownership limit within the agreed timeframe.
WGA also says that WME is asserting that both it and any entity also owned by WME’s private equity owners, Silver Lake Partners, can combine to own more than 20% of the agency’s affiliate studio, Endeavor Content. It also wants shareholders that own less than 20% of the agency to be exempt from conflict-of-interest regulations, which the guild says could mean that “a shareholder owning 19% of WME could also own 100% of a studio.”
“Having sat mostly on the sidelines for the past 20 months, there will be no ‘going last’ bonus for WME – no accommodation for the fact that they are the most conflicted of all agencies – no alterations to our existing deals that soften the protections that writers have fought for nearly two years to achieve,” WGA’s memo reads, insisting that the deal CAA and other agencies agreed to is the only way forward.