I’m told that laid off William Morris agent Louise Ward will be announcing this morning that she is joining United Talent agency. She is taking with her such clients as Channing Tatum, Julian McMahon, Cobie Smulders, Alex Frost, and others. “Jim Wiatt thought he could throw her out on her ass and take Channing and Julian from her and not pay her the bonus she was promised after she had an amazing year,” a source told me. “This will come out to be one of the stupidest decisions ever by an agency head, particularly in this economic climate.” For instance, Julian McMahon is about to make a huge new deal with FX’s Nip/Tuck for his final year which WMA can’t commission. Channing Tatum (Step Up, the forthcoming G.I. Joe) is considered one of the hottest leads around and is a first dollar gross player and is available starting in January. Cobie Smulders’ show, How I Met Your Mother, just sold into syndication for $400 million, and she is about to get a big raise. As my source explained, “Wiatt’s timing could not have been stupider. Why would you fire an agent who was so profitable and not expensive and had a huge upside?” One insider tells me that WMA’s John Fogelman even offered Ward a bizarre backchannel deal after the agency realized Channing Tatum was going with her: a guaranteed salary + 1/3 of Channing’s revenues over a certain threshold in perpetuity if she quit the business. Ward had a contract that didn’t end until May. But she was told at the start of October by WMA that she wouldn’t be renewed. Morris insiders tell me they would have helped her find another job and honor her contract by paying her through May “to give her time to land somewhere”. As the Morris insider chastized me, “That was the reason why it was never announced. No one would have known about it had you not written about it.” This is the 2nd Morris agent that UTA has hired this month.
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