UPDATE From Nikki Finke: “Dick has been unhappy for a while,” one source is telling me as the reason behind Dick Wolf leaving UTA, his agency of 11 years. (Deadline TV Editor Nellie Andreeva broke the news today. See below.) Wolf was close with Peter Benedek and had a friendship with Tracey Jacobs there. But in the end, when it comes to Wolf, it’s all about network series, and “he was frustrated and nervous,” one of my sources explains, which says more about Wolf as a producer after all his success than about UTA’s ability as an agency. “More than anything, he was always frustrated that he couldn’t get any non-Law & Order show on the air in recent years and that he couldn’t build a franchise outside. And he was very frustrated that NBC didn’t give Law & Order classic another year so it could become the longest running American drama series of all time [instead of tied with Gunsmoke]. He’s also worried: he sees that Criminal Intent is in its last cycle next year, that LOLA is not coming out of the gate like gangbusters, and that SVU is fading so that if NBC wasn’t in such terrible straits it wouldn’t even last another 2-3 years even though Dick is the master of stretching those. Look, you know the man, he’s a very vibrant, virile, alpha male-type guy. I’m sure he wanted UTA to shake some nuts off the tree and get more stuff going for him.”
So where will Wolf go? This gets interesting because Wolf “likes to be friends with his agents,” I’m told. He’s a Santa Barbara neighbor of WME’s Rick Rosen and the two are good friends. He’s also good friends with ICM’s Chris Silbermann and Ted Chervin and took a business status meeting with them recently. He used to be repped by CAA’s Chris Harbert alongside Benedek when the TV packaging agent was at UTA. When Harbert jumped to CAA, the agency world was surprised that Wolf didn’t follow and instead stayed loyal to Benedek and UTA even though CAA went after him incredibly hard. CAA even did an Entourage-like Powerpoint presentation for Wolf, and I hear the last scene featured Dick in the cockpit of a Gulfstream 5 while the jet engines spewed $100 bills.
EXCLUSIVE 4:45 PM: From Nellie Andreeva, Deadline TV Editor: Talk about a shocker. There’s big news in the TV agency world — Law & Order creator Dick Wolf has just left UTA where he had been a client of owner/founder Peter Benedek’s since 1999 and more recently of Tracey Jacob’s (who also reps L&O: Criminal Intent‘s Vincent D’Onofrio). Also, I hear that he has not signed yet with a new agency and it is not clear if he intends to do so right away. “We are honored to have called Dick a client for more than a decade, and we are proud of our long relationship which has resulted in some of the best television series ever to air,” the UTA partners said in a joint statement. “We wish Dick the very best.”
Two decades after the launch of his original Law & Order series, Wolf remains one of the top earners in television with a very lucrative deal at NBC Universal for his Wolf Films. But at the same time, Wolf is known as an extremely hard-nosed businessman and hard-to-handle personality. Right now, he has three Law & Order series on the air: Law & Order: SVU and Law & Order: Los Angeles on NBC and Law & Order: Criminal Intent on USA; British offshoot Law & Order: UK, on which he also serves as an executive producer; as well as a pilot order at USA. But he lost the original Law & Order on NBC last spring (and a deal for TNT to take it over didn’t work out) and the negotiation for Criminal Intent was long and arduous before its recent renewal. “I wish UTA the best going forward and I just want to take this opportunity to specifically thank Peter Benedek and Tracey Jacobs for their longtime help, thoughtfulness and advice,” Wolf said.
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