Less than four years after Primary Wave, known at the time mostly for its music business, made a big push in talent management with the back-to-back acquisitions of Mark Burg’s Evolution Management and David Guillod’s Intellectual Artists Management, the company is scaling back on Hollywood representation to focus on its core music management business as well as film and TV development and production via Cathy Schulman’s Welle Entertainment.
Of the three principals of the merged Primary Wave Entertainment talent management division, Primary Wave co-CEOs Larry Mestel, Guillod and Burg, only Mestel is still there, running the company as CEO. Guillod resigned in November in the wake of sexual assault allegations. I hear Burg, who had managed Charlie Sheen for 20 years, left soon after to return to producing. A large number of the remaining PWE managers have left in the past seven months or are in the process of leaving. That includes Jeff Morrone and Brad Pence, who recently joined Atlas Artists, Tiffany Kuzon who went to Mosaic, Margot Menzel, who joined Luber Roklin, Eric Skinner, who joined client Xzibit’s company, and Tatiana Sarah, who is headed to Authentic.
There sare a few talent managers left — most of them looking for other gigs — but that is not where the focus of the company will be going forward, Mestel told Deadline.
“We are refocusing of where we want to spend our resources, which is two main areas — the music management business and the film and television development business; we believe content is the future,” he said.
The latter will be done primarily through Welle Entertainment, the film and television production and finance company launched by Schulman last year as co-venture with Primary Wave Entertainment, which owns half of it. “We believe very strongly in Cathy and Welle, which is focused on female-facing projects,” Mestel said.
Several months before launching Welle with Schulman, Primary Wave Entertainment acquired Jeff Gaspin’s Gaspin Media and named the former NBC Universal TV Entertainment chairman PWE President, tasking him with expanding the company’s original content slate. He, along with Morrone, executive produce the new TV series L.A.’s Finest for Charter Communications and Sony TV. Gaspin is continuing in his role for the moment, doing some projects on his own through PWE and some with Schulman via Welle, with observers speculating that he too may depart for another job.
The depleted film and TV management unit represents a radical change for PWE, which just nine months ago had a thriving talent business with 40 TV series regulars.
The company’s morale took a hit when co-CEO Guillod exited in November amid misconduct allegations. I hear the rest of the PWE talent managers tried to band together and rebuild the division in the wake of the controversy. According to sources, the efforts were hindered by protracted new contract negotiations with most of the managers whose deals were up.
After months — as many as 6-7 — of difficult contract negotiations led by Mestel, I hear many of the managers grew increasingly frustrated and started looking for opportunities elsewhere, especially when it became clear that PWE was shifting resources away from talent representation to music management and content. In light of the changes, I hear even those whose contracts were not up started seeking more structure and opportunities for growth at other companies.