UPDATED from 8:49 AM story with Terry Crews’ response: Adam Venit, the longtime talent agent and an architect of Endeavor and WME’s movie businesses, is retiring Monday. Venit told his close colleagues and clients yesterday that he has made the decision to retire, and he is transitioning a stellar list of stars and filmmakers to others at WME, a list that includes Adam Sandler, Sylvester Stallone, Shawn Levy, Dustin Hoffman, Eddie Murphy, Michael B. Jordan, Vince Vaughn, M. Night Shyamalan and Marc Forster.
His final months as an agent included becoming mired in the #MeToo controversy after former WME client Terry Crews claimed the agent groped him at a party. Venit apologized, but Crews was steadfast and has become a forceful voice in that victims don’t necessarily have to be women. Being drawn into that narrative certainly dampened the spirit of Venit, who was temporarily suspended and stripped of his title as head of WME’s Motion Picture Group.
Crews today responded on Twitter to the news with one word, in all caps: “ACCOUNTABILITY.”
Sources close to Venit said he had been mulling the end of his road as a dealmaker for some time, and it only accelerated his decision by about 18 months. It comes as WME tells Deadline that Crews, Venit and WME settled the lawsuit Crews filed last year, and that it will be dismissed. Venit should hardly be defined by that controversy; he has been a major agent for decades.
Venit has been a powerhouse agent at the center of helping build WME’s movie business. He hired many of the agency’s star dealmakers and shared clients with a lot of them. Venit has been an agent for 32 years, this after he dropped out of law school, drove to Berkeley and took a job in the CAA mailroom back in 1986.
Along with Doug Robinson and David Lonner, Venit was one of the CAA stars who shocked the business when they peeled off to join Endeavor about a year after Ari Emanuel, Tom Strickler, David Greenblatt and a few other ICM agents left late one night to form that agency. Along with Robinson and Lonner, Venit broadened Endeavor’s mostly TV lit identity to a motion picture enterprise. He brought Sandler, who has been his client now for over 30 years, as well as Hank Azaria and Wesley Snipes. Several years later, Patrick Whitesell made the jump from CAA and the agency built a formidable motion picture division.
Venit was a key figure in melding the pieces of WME and Endeavor after that merger. Besides the unfortunate business with Crews, Venit has had events in his life that led him to want to slow down. Sources said he has no plans, other than to really retire and take at least six months to ponder if he wants to do anything. His success means he doesn’t have to work, so even if he produces something or helps young talent, it will be as a hobby and not a new career.
I’m told that his meetings yesterday with his longtime co-conspirators was an emotional affair.