UPDATED with additional quote: Rowland Perkins, considered the elder gentleman of the original founders of Creative Artists Agency, has died. He was 84. Perkins was actually the first president of the talent agency when it began back in 1975 in the old Hong Kong bank building on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. He was made president when the founders put all their names in a hat and his was pulled out.
Perkins was a known agent in town when the agency began, and also had the only client making money at the time — William Conrad.
The hierarchy eventually changed at CAA, but Perkins remained ever loyal to the talent agency and stayed until 1993, when he moved into an advisory capacity. But for about two decades, he was a packaging agent for the television division where he handled some major clients including Aaron Spelling Productions and TV/Broadway producer George Schaefer. He worked alongside TV powerhouses Bill Haber, Lee Gabler and others at CAA for years.
“Rowland was a wonderful man. There would be no CAA without him,” said Ron Meyer, one of CAA’s original founders and now vice chairman of NBCUniversal. “He was the most senior of all of us and gave us enormous credibility when we started. He was a guy that people looked to, he and Mike Rosenfeld, both of them were very well respected.”
Perkins, Rosenfeld, Meyer, Michael Ovitz and Bill Haber began the agency after leaving the venerable William Morris Agency, most of them as kids in their 20s. Perkins also packaged television during stint at WMA, where he worked before heading out with the boys to co-found CAA.
“Rowland was the CAA Eminence Gris long before he was gray. A sensitive superb diplomat in a rough (and) tumble industry. Respected and beloved on both sides of every aisle. He knew more about television than Philo Farnsworth. His unique kind will not be seen again. And that is a loss for us all who have been brightened by the electronic hearth, all our lives, regardless of where the heat emanates. I was gifted all my career by his aura,” said Bill Haber who worked with Perkins both at WMA and at CAA and together with Perkins helped to build the agency’s formidable TV department.
“He was a quality guy, and didn’t have a mean bone in his body and everyone really respected him and looked up to him. He was very knowledgeable,” said former WMA agent Fred Westheimer, who Perkins helped to bring into WMA. “He recruited me in 1970, and I owe him and Bill Haber a debt of gratitude for bringing me into William Morris. He was a great packaging agent. One of the originals.”
Fred Specktor, who knew Perkins for 10 years at WMA (they had adjoining offices) and then also worked with him for about 15 years at CAA, said, “I feel very sad about it. He was a really nice man. He was a really good guy. A good agent, and when CAA was formed, he and Mike Rosenfeld were really the ones who were well-known at the time. Rowland was a really special guy.”
After leaving CAA, Perkins went on the board of various Internet companies (MouseJockey, a startup in Santa Monica, ieInc., Talentclick) and also served as an exec producer on TV shows.
Perkins was a graduate of Beverly Hills High School. Friends remember him also as a wine connoisseur who loved food and, as Specktor noted, “was just a mench.”
“Our hearts are heavy today, CAA said in a statement. “All of us at CAA send our heartfelt condolences to Rowland’s cherished family. We hope they find some measure of comfort in knowing the depth of our gratitude for his friendship and leadership, and that Rowland’s legacy lives on in the hallways of every CAA office around the world.”
Perkins is survived by his daughters Kamala, Dahra and Alexandra and grandchildren Zoe, Harper, Grace, Annabel and Rile. He was preceded in death by his wife, Sally James Perkins.