2ND UPDATE (refresh for latest): The latest is that I’m told partner and longtime TV czar Lee Gabler is about to retire from CAA. There’s a meeting at CAA about it right now (apparently with business affairs). People close to Gabler said his last official day at CAA was March 31st. Calls to Lee Gabler at CAA just go straight to voicemail. Gabler’s leaving, while expected, is the first of what I now hear will be several high-profile agency departures from CAA. These are being hastened by recent cost-cutting. In recent months, old school Gabler was very outspoken about what he saw as CAA’s new freespending ways on overhead, agent hirings, the new building and the start-up sports division (all of which resulted in some recent belt-tightening, as I reported). Gabler was co-chairman of the TV department along with Steven Lafferty. TV sources say that Gabler about six months ago had “moved up to an overseer” role while Lafferty was running the day-to-day. So Gabler’s imminent exit is not unexpected to the TV industry. (Hopefully, there’ll be an official announcement or tribute dinner. Otherwise, CAA has no class.) Last October, Jennifer Gabler Rawlings, a motion picture talent agent at CAA and Gabler’s daughter, arrived on Endeavor’s doorstep. She had worked closely with Endeavor partners Adam Venit and Patrick Whitesell when they were CAA agents. Everyone at Endeavor was thrilled, yada, yada. But, jeez, Gabler’s daughter was now working for the competition. So back then I thought Daddy Gabler’s retirement from CAA was imminent. I’d heard that CAA partners Richard Lovett, Bryan Lourd and Kevin Huvane had been trying for years to unfairly wrest control of the TV department and partnership from Gabler, long the head of the television division in its post-Bill Haber incarnation and a respected macher in the TV biz. A native New Yorker, Gabler began his career in the mailroom of Ashley Steiner Famous Artists in New York (which later became ICM) where he was promoted to agent in 1964. He was upped to v-p four years later. In 1970, Gabler transferred to ICM in Los Angeles where he worked as executive vice president and head of worldwide television. He joined CAA in 1983 in what was then considered a major coup for that agency. Gabler’s wife is Elizabeth Gabler, the president of Fox 2000. Lafferty was head of CAA’s business affairs in the TV department for many years before his ultimate promotion to chairman. The son of the late TV network veteran exec Perry Lafferty (NBC and CBS), Steven Lafferty is considered a very likeable guy but also less fiercely competitive than Gabler.
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