This is one of those times where there are two sides to this story. I began receiving phone calls today alerting me that WME (William Morris/Endeavor) has just sent, or is about to send, bad news letters to certain laid-off William Morris agents who found work at CAA, UTA, ICM and Paradigm. The point of the missives is to cut off these agents from receiving whole or part of their William Morris salaries. Let me explain: with only a handful of exceptions, the Morris agents had contracts calling for mitigation: this means that if the tenpercenters had time left on their deals and could find work as agents elsewhere, then WME would be on the hook for paying them the salary difference between their new jobs and their old ones.
Now WME explains to me that the letters went out to “only” those agents playing fast and loose with the mitigation terms. For instance, if an agent making $250K at Morris went to work at a rival agency for a new salary of $25K, WME had to pay $225K for the life of the Morris contract. A WME insider complained to me: “Some people basically were getting paid nothing by the other agencies. That’s not how mitigation is supposed to work. You’re supposed to get a job near the pay scale you normally get. But these people are subverting the process.”
My sources at the rival agencies counter that, “no attempt was made at any good faith negotiation. WME went right to the most heavy-handed approach — unilaterally cutting them off.” It reminds me, sadly, of when the William Morris Agency had pitbull Hollywood litigator Patty Glaser send “cease-and-desist” letters to rival agencies demanding that they stop trying to hire any Morris tenpercenters before 15% of the workforce there was laid off. Understandably, the agents receiving these new WME letters are “freaking out”, I’m told, especially because some won’t be able to afford their mortgages. Many suspect that WME is using economic duress to cut deals only worth $.70 on the dollar with those agents lucky enough to find jobs in this tough market. As one competitor railed to me, “WME fired dozens of people, and now they want to screw them over again.”