June 1, 2019 marks the official 10-year anniversary of the William Morris Agency-Endeavor merger. It wasn’t a marriage of equals, with 14-year-old Endeavor, then valued at $100 million-plus, joining forces with a Hollywood royalty, the 111-year-old WMA valued at more than twice as much. But, in one of the most shocking Hollywood takeovers, it was Endeavor, with its 80 agents, that came up on top, taking advantage of the existing fractures within WMA leadership to take control of the bigger rival, which boasted more than 300 agents at the time.
“The WMA leadership was totally blindsided; they truly believed that they would be running the combined company,” one insider said. Indeed, WMA was supposed to control five of WME’s nine board seats versus four for Endeavor, with WMA CEO Jim Wiatt leading WME as chairman and WMA president Dave Wirtschafter as co-CEO alongside Endeavor toppers Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell.
But the Endeavor brain trust employed “brilliant strategic maneuvering to get the WMA leadership to turn on each other one by one,” the source continued, with their efforts helped by the dysfunction within WMA’s top ranks and the negative press the agency was getting at the time.
Endeavor’s staff remained virtually intact, while about 100 WMA employees were laid off in the merger’s immediate aftermath, with the WMA agent exodus continuing over the following months. That included the majority of the WMA board that had voted 18-1 in favor of the merger, including its leading duo that orchestrated the merger, Wiatt and COO Irv Weintraub. Wirtschafter is still there though he quickly relinquished the co-CEO title.
As part of Deadline’s coverage of the anniversary, here is a “Where They Are Now” list of notable WMA alumni who were there at the time of the merger:
The members of the WMA board in 2009 who voted on the union with Endeavor:
Jim Wiatt: Former WMA Chairman and CEO. He was the architect of the merger between WMA and Endeavor. Pushed out shortly after the merger was completed. Serves on USC Cinematic Arts’ Board of Councilors.
Irv Weintraub: Former WMA COO. He and Wiatt orchestrated the merger. He also was let go by the new leadership shortly after the merger.
Dave Wirtschafter: former WMA President. He is a partner at WME.
John Fogelman: Former WMA EVP and Head of the Motion Picture Department and the Intellectual Property Group, one of the architects of the merger. He was a founding board member of WME and oversaw the Strategic Planning and Development Group until he exited In March 2011. He then launched FactoryMade Ventures, a development and consulting firm and incubator.
Mark Itkin: Top WMA syndication/unscripted agent became Co-Head of Television and a board member of WME until his retirement in 2015.
John Ferriter: Former WMA EVP/Worldwide Head of Non-Scripted TV. The only WMA board member to vote against the merger. Post-merger, he filed $25 million lawsuit against WME, which was eventually settled. He served as Managing Director of Octagon before launching managing and production company The Alternative.
Cara Stein: After a two-year stint as a partner at WME, she left in 2011 to become SVP, Chief Talent Officer for NBCUniversal.
Mike Simpson: Motion Picture Agent and partner at WME.
John Mass: Former WMA EVP and head of Corporate Development and New Ventures. Let go after the merger. Served as partner at Oasis Media Group. Currently EVP of Content Partners.
Aaron Kaplan: Former WMA worldwide head of scripted television. Opted out of his contract, took a payout and launched a TV production company, Kapital Entertainment, building it into an indie powerhouse with 28 series ordered over the past nine years and 10 currently on the air.
Peter Grosslight: WMA’s head of music became global head of music and board member of WME. Died in 2014.
Jennifer Rudolph Walsh: Former EVP and Co-Head of the WMA’s Worldwide Literary Department. Transitioned to WME, where she serves as board member and head of Worldwide Literary, Lectures, and Conference Divisions.
Marc Geiger: Former SVP of WMA’s music division. Now head of WME’s music division and partner.
Paul Bricault: Former EVP and head of the Global Marketing Practice and the Digital Media Group. Let go a couple of months after the merger. Currently Managing Partner at Amplify.LA and Venture Partner at Greycroft Partners.
Rick Shipp: Former WMA Nashville office co-head. Became WME Partner, Music. He has since retired.
Norman Brokaw: The WMA veteran was Chairman Emeritus of WME. He died in 2016.
Jim Griffin: The former WMA New York talent agent was pushed out several months after the merger. He joined Paradigm in 2010.
Suzanne Gluck: The veteran WMA lit agent works in WME’s New York office.
Jon Rosen: The WMA veteran is a WME board member, partner, head of the agency’s Branded Lifestyle Group, and head of WME’s East Coast Television department
Other high-profile WMA agents who left as part of the massive post-merger layoffs:
Alan Gasmer (MP lit): Principal in entertainment management company Alan Gasmer & Friends and Veritas Entertainment Group. Executive producer of History hit Vikings, AT&T Audience Network’s You Me Her, HBO’s Fahrenheit 451 and Hulu’s Crash & Burn.
Dan Norton (TV Lit): Went to ICM Partners, where he is now a partner.
Renee Kurtz (TV Lit): Went to CAA before segueing to management and joining Principato-Young in 2016.
Elana Barry (TV Lit): Switched to management. She did a stint at Anonymous Content and is currently at Circle of Confusion.
Lanny Noveck (TV Lit): Went to ICM Partners. He was released in 2017 and co-founded Signature, a boutique literary management firm.
Ramses IsHak & Michael Sheresky (SVPs, MP Lit): Joined UTA’s motion picture lit department where they are currently partners.
Erwin More (TV): Went to Paradigm where he served as head of Paradigm’s TV talent department. Currently a founding partner of More/Medavoy Management.
Bruce Gersh (SVP, Strategy and Operations, Intellectual Property): Was Co-Founder, President and CEO of FishBowl Worldwide Media and EVP & Head of Digital, Strategy and Branded Entertainment, ITV Studios America. Currently EVP/President of People, Entertainment Weekly, People en Espanol and Four M Studios.
Ben Rowe (MP lit) Became manager, currently partner at Grandview Automatik
Fred Hashagen (talent) Went to Paradigm, then UTA
Sara Bottfeld (MP Lit) Went into management, partner at Industry Entertainment
Susan Brooks (Worldwide Head of TV Business Affairs). Founder & Partner at Forefront Partners
Steven Selikoff (Lit) Manager at the Shuman Company
Joanne Roberts Wiles (Lit, Talent) Went to ICM; founding partner of ICM Partners
Ava Greenfield (Lit) Went to ICM
Cassian Elwes, Rena Ronson (WMA Independent co-heads) Elwes is a producer, Ronson is partner and head of UTA independent Film Group)
Dozens of WMA agents transitioned to WME. Here are some of them:
Danny Greenberg (MP Lit, partner)
Cori Wellins (TV Lit, partner)
Esther Chang (talent, partner, co-head of the talent department)
Mike Simpson (MP Lit, partner)
Charles D. King (MP, partner, left in 2015 to found and serve as CEO of MACRO)
Brad Slater (Talent, partner)
George Freeman.(SVP MP, Partner)
Phil Sun (talent, partner)
Jeff Gorin (MP Lit, partner)
Scott Henderson (Talent, partner)
Kimberly Bialek (MP lit, partner)
Brian DePersia (Talent)
Chris Newman (Reality TV, partner; moved to UTA in 2013)
Rob Carlson (MP Lit, partner at WME; moved to UTA in 2016)
Blake Fronstin (TV Lit)
Danny Gabai (lit, left WME in 2012 for Vice where he now is Head Of Vice Studios U.S.)
Bill Clegg (lit) left in 2014 to start his own agency,, The Clegg Agency,. He also is an award-winning author.
Ed Limato (Talent; was a senior WME agent until his death in 2010)
Bonnie Liedtke (Talent, left in 2011 to become a manager; currently at Authentic Talent & Literary Management)
Thor Bradwell ((Talent, left in 2013 to become manager, formed Thirty Three Management)
Craig Kestel (MP Lit)
David Lubliner (MP Lit, moved to UTA earlier this year)
Cliff Roberts (MP Lit, exited in 2016; runs management/production company Syndicate Entertainment)
Mike Esola (lit, left in 2015 for UTA, currently CEO and Co-Founder of Fiction Riot
Troy Zien (Talent, now manager at 3 Arts)
Mike Eisner (VP, MP Lit, left WME in December 2009, joined Hasbro Studios as SVP Legal and Business Affairs in August 2010; died in 2017)
Michael Cooper (MP talent, now at CAA)
Gaby Morgerman (Talent)
WMA’s David Lonner and Steve Rabineau, who had left partnership positions at Endeavor in 2003 to join WMA, opted not to transition to WME post-merger.
Rabineau (MP Lit) moved to UTA as a partner. In 2016, he joined WME a partner in the Motion Picture Literary department.
Lonner (MP Lit) founded and owns Oasis Media Group
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