2ND UPDATE, FRIDAY 3 PM: This morning after being intro’ed by Patrick Whitesell, John Fogelman stood up at WME’s quarterly meeting inside the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and gave a small “I-was-lucky-to-work-here” speech. He received a standing ovation. Love him or hate him (and those laid-off Morris agents who weren’t given the opportunity to transition to WME sure do), Fogelman nevertheless is a force of nature to be reckoned with in Hollywood. WME insiders don’t expect the agency to replace John on the board. “The feeling is that there are too many people on the board already. Don’t expect them to add another name,” I’m told.
Meanwhile, Fogelman’s decision to depart WME was by no means sudden. I’m told he made the decision as far back as December right after a conversation with his kids. “They love the Seinfeld show and were asking him why did Jerry quit. And John told them, ‘Because the ideal is that you quit when you’re at the top.’ And that started the thought in his head,” said one of my insiders. Fogelman considers the pinnacle of his career when he turned Discovery Kids into The Hub with Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner. See their photo above from this Wall Street Journal story back in November 2009. (“I launched a network. No agent had ever done that before,” John tells pals.) As well as helping his clients JJ Abrams (still managed by David Lonner) and Michael Bay on this year’s films Terminator 3, Mission Impossible 4, and Super 8. As for timing his departure, Fogelman spent all day yesterday telling colleagues, “I’m not going to leave until I know what I’m going to do”.
So what might that be? At age 45, after 2 decades in the agency maelstrom, he wants to run his own independent show after being an integral part of Jim Wiatt’s show at William Morris and now Ari Emanuel’s show at the successor agency WME. And once he gets his footing, he plans to re-assemble his skunkworks project consisting of an entrepreneurial clique of people with business backgrounds from networks, cable, wireless telecommunications, investment banking, etc. The idea is to look at opportunities and create initiatives for game-changing “convergence” in the movie and television arenas. And to focus on entertainment convergence opportunities in Latin America, particularly Brazil.
Say what you will about him, and many do, but Fogelman made a shitload of money for William Morris and then WME and was one of both agencies’ most profitable agents. So it’s more than possible that he will be successful in his Act III. Fogelman is telling colleagues he hopes to include JJ Abrams in any big venture he undertakes: “I adore the guy. He’s so smart. If I ever found room to have a creative steward in my venture business, he’s the only person I’d do it with. maybe he’d do it, maybe not. But there’s no one like him.” Fogelman has acknowledged it’s “premature to take about including Abrams now. So for now Fogelman is thinking, thinking, thinking. He’s known for that as much as for his brusque manner and sharp tongue and dealmaking skill. It wasn’t that long ago he wrote a “white paper” summing up his thoughts on the entertainment biz. Or tried to get that Intellectual Property Group to actually accomplish something at the old Morris.
THURSDAY, 10:30 AM: Fogelman’s departure from WME isn’t exactly a surprise. Because no one thought he would be a lifer inside the new WME Entertainment after he helped engineer the takeover of the venerable William Morris Agency by upstart Endeavor. Now Fogelman, one of Hollywood’s most controversial agents who also has his MBA/CPA degrees, will be bidding the agency biz goodbye altogether for something more entrepreneaurial at an unspecified date in the future. Insiders are calling it a very “fluid situation” right now as his plans firm up. Expect a feeding frenzy for his biggest clients, J.J. Abrams (whom he stole from David Lonner internally at the old Morris) and Michael Bay (whom he has held onto because of the Hasbro connection). WME intends to bring out the big guns — maybe Patrick Whitesell and Rick Rosen, and Mike Simpson — to hang onto Abrams. Then again, Fogelson prettyThe agency also is counting on Ari Emanuel, Rob Carlson, and others to lead the Michael Bay team. For the moment, Internet chatter about Fogelman joining up with Abrams on a venture is premature. But WME is planning to rep Fogelman for whatever he does decide to do. That’s because Fogelman was one of the May 2009 votes on the newly constituted WME board that pushed out WMA CEO Jim Wiatt who was supposed to take over the merged company’s chairmanship. Instead, Wiatt was eased out with a statement that he made the decision to leave.
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