There is more evidence than ever that the William Morris Agency/Endeavor merger is looking more like an Endeavor takeover. I also will have more news of laid-off vs safe WMA agents later today.
Since Monday, when Morris and Endeavor learned their merger wouldn’t get held up by the feds, 15% of WMA’s workforce, or 100 people, are in the process of being laid off (and I will have more names later today). But what has gone unnoticed is that Endeavor’s number of layoffs will ultimately total “only half a dozen,” according to my sources. This is astonishing, especially since most of those have been done already.
Sources also tell me that the situation was handled far differently inside much smaller Endeavor than at WMA — indicating that the two agencies are still operating separately and apparently unequally.
Tom Strickler’s departure from Endeavor was a special case. The co-founder had been expected by everyone at the agency, including Ari Emanuel, to join the combined company even though Strickler had vociferously argued against the merger. So it came as a shock when he announced his resignation just before Endeavor was voting on the merger. (As a result, that vote was unanimous.) As I previously reported, Endeavor’s Richard Abate didn’t join the merged company because of a personality conflict with WMA’s Jennifer Rudolph Walsh who will head up the new WME’s book department and is a member of the new 9-person board. But over the past month, Endeavor went to several agents like Daisy Wu, Susan Solomon and Brian Lipson, and told them they “likely” wouldn’t survive the merger. That allowed the agents to start quietly looking for jobs before they might be let go. But when their names surfaced in recent weeks as having been laid off, Endeavor kept saying, “No, they’re still working here.” I did report Wu’s departure to Gersh. Both Solomon and Lipson became managers: Solomon landed at Principato Young, and Lipson went to IPG (aka Intellectual Property Group). Some other agents were told they should step it up”.
That luxury of time wasn’t afforded the WMA agents. I have learned that, adding insult to injury, the William Morris Agency several weeks ago had pitbull Hollywood litigator Patty Glaser send “cease-and-desist” letters to rival agencies demanding that they stop trying to hire any Morris tenpercenters. The reason for this was clear and understandable: WMA wanted to make sure it didn’t lose any of the agents it would ultimately decide were “safe” in the merger. But this also had the effect of hampering those agents who, at the time, didn’t know they were going to be laid off, from finding jobs early. One agency owner who received Glaser’s letter from WMA called it “despicable” and “inhumane”.
Another confusing inconsistency is that some WMA agents before Monday’s layoffs were being told they would be held to their contracts if there was time left and they wanted to leave, and some weren’t.
I also hear that Endeavor may not have to let any assistants go because the agency in recent months had been whittling down the number through attrition. By contrast, some assistants and other support personnel who have lost their jobs at WMA are complaining to me they’re receiving only two weeks pay, far from the “generous” severance WMA promised. But WMA today insist to me that the least amount of severance anyone is receiving is 2 months, and that’s only for someone who’s worked at agency for two years or less.
Finally, all the internal announcements about TV packages from this week’s upfronts are coming into both agencies labeled as from “WME”.