UPDATE: WME issued this brief statement: “We have resolved our differences with John Ferriter, and we are open to doing business with him and Octagon in the future.”
EXCLUSIVE: Multiple sources tell me that agent John Ferriter settled for less than what was remaining on his employment contract with the William Morris Agency and William Morris Endeavor when he abruptly exited the merged agency. But the ex-Morris board member/EVP/worldwide head of non-scripted TV clearly got a lot of satisfaction from forcing the arbitration proceeding to drag on interminably — almost two months longer than the 2 weeks that had been planned. And making Ferriter’s one-time WME boss Rick Rosen sit in a Century City conference room through almost every session for weeks on end. And interrogating Ferriter’s former WMA boss Jim Wiatt whom Ferriter had accused of lying to him that there was no merger between WMA and Endeavor underway when Ferriter re-upped for a new Morris contract. Ferriter was repped in the arbitration by his sister, a Los Angeles litigator, who also called as a witness WME chief Ari Emanuel. [For the record, The Hollywood Reporter erroneously claimed that I would be called as a witness and that I wrote negative articles about Ferriter at WME’s behest. In fact I was never deposed, never called as a witness, and never served with a subpoena. And sources tell me that WME’s lawyers clearly demonstrated at the arbitration that it was Ferriter’s own publicist who fed journalists all the news about Ferriter’s 2009 exit from WME, not the other way around.]
Ferriter, who has since started an unscripted TV department at sports agency Octagon. at first filed a $25M lawsuit against WME until a judge ruled that his contract called for private arbitration. Ferriter was the only Morris partner to vote against the 2009 merger and claimed he was later targeted by the newly merged agency. But he wasn’t fired when many other Morris agents were laid off right after the merger. Nor when he suffered a long illness from a blood clot and resulting infection. After Ferriter recovered, he went to work at WME. Then, suddenly, Ferriter was out. The agent claimed he’d been first marginalized and then fired by WME, which in turn claimed that Ferriter had stopped coming to work and was welcome to return. Ferriter then hired a publicist to badmouth WME to the media and then filed a 44-page lawsuit whose allegations included contractual fraud, wrongful termination, breach of contract, and defamation/slander. The legal complaint was an interesting window on the behind-the-scenes activity inside the Morris merger with Endeavor. Ferriter complained that, when it came time for him to negotiate a new contract at Morris in the fall of 2008, WMA Compensation Committee members Jim Wiatt, Irv Weintraub, and Mark Itkin “refused” assured him that, if he signed a new deal, he’d retain his title and authority, keep the same resources and support staff, report to the same people, remain a Board member indefinitely, and take on “more of a leadership role”. According to Ferriter, he was given a 3-year contract paying him $2 million annually effective January 1, 2009. But Ferriter claimed that, unbeknownst to him, the WMA brass were negotiating the terms of a merger in secret with Endeavor and that es that Wiatt and Weintraub knew that Ferriter would no longer be a board member nor run the non-scripted TV department in the nw entity.
Ferriter claims he didn’t learn about the pending merger until March 2009 and, when he confronted his Morris bosses, Wiatt and Weintraub denied knowledge of it even though negotiations had been taking place for months and that April the merger was presented to the WMA Board of Directors by Wiatt and Weintraub. One week before the WMA vote on the merger, Ferriter says he met with Ari Emanuel and Rick Rosen at the Bel Air Hotel on April 20th and that the two men promised him that nothing would change regarding his position or authority or running of his department “regardless of his individual vote”. On April 27th, he “voiced objections” about the merger to the WMA board, especially over what he called Endeavor’s true financial status and business assets. As I reported exclusively at the time, Ferriter was the only board member to vote against the merger. And a few days after, he fell seriously ill and was hospitalized for 2 months while the merger was finalized. In that time, Ferriter says, his contract was assigned to WME without his consent. He also did not receive a seat on the new agency’s board. So when Ferriter returned to work on July 22nd, he says he no longer had a title or was considered a department head. His support staff and resources were drastically reduced, and his authority and responsibilities were reassigned to subordinates.
Ferriter contended that when he voiced objections about “mismanagement” of the non-scripted TV department, WME “began a campaign of harassment and retaliation” so as to create an “intolerable and hostile workplace” that was “designed to drive Ferriter out of the agency”. Among Ferriter’s claims, WME excluded him from client meetings and company communications, barred him from the premises and from speaking to WME employees, and made defamtory and derogatory statements about him. WME denied all of Ferriter’s accusations.