EXCLUSIVE: After entertainment agencies and studios made pronouncements of support towards Black Lives Matter and anti-racism causes and shut down for Blackout Tuesday last week, it was inevitable that people within those companies would look around and gauge how deeply invested their companies are in diversity hiring. This became an issue last week at Paradigm, after the agency posted on its Instagram page: “We stand for justice for Black communities. We stand in solidarity with our Black colleagues, families, friends, artists and clients. We share your frustration and anger. We must all help to make tomorrow better than today and the day after better than tomorrow.”
The problem, according to several staffers Deadline spoke with who did not wish to be identified, is that because of the volume of layoff/furloughs done at the beginning of the pandemic, Paradigm let go nearly all of the agents of color, and many women as well. Six agents of color were let go (one feature lit agent just returned), and left the agency at that moment with only one agent of color. Some of those let go made that point in their own Instagram posts, and an email was sent internally by a white staffer who conveyed that the agency had no reason to feel proud about this, sources said. A meeting was held Monday and sources said that during it, Sam Gores actually told staff that he was not a racist and that he wasn’t stigmatized by institutionalized racism because he wasn’t born in this country, but rather Israel. It struck some people there as an odd thing to say.
A Paradigm defender disputed Deadline’s information, saying that prior to the March 24 layoffs, there were 94 people of color who were full-time employees; after the layoffs, 33 active full-time employees were people of color. They qualified it by saying a substantial number of these people were in “professional roles,” including support jobs like accountants, HR managers and attorneys. Assistants were also counted. That density was a surprise to people Deadline spoke with. This issue isn’t unique to Paradigm; it is clear that every agent and studio – and the publications that cover them, for that matter — need to lean in on the problem and try to better balance the scales.
For its part, Paradigm just now made an internal announcement on the diversity issue, telling staffers it has begun a search for an executive to lead its diversity initiatives. This issue is the latest in what has been a turbulent period for Paradigm that has left employees feeling at sea since the agency whose fortunes are driven primarily by music touring commissions saw that dry up because of the pandemic and abruptly “temporarily” laid off upwards of 200 staffers.
Two weeks ago, rumors raced that Casey Wasserman was considering an acquisition of Paradigm’s music touring division. Last week, Crescent Drive Media — the investment company run by Paradigm chief Sam Gores’ brother Tom — took an ownership stake in the agency and provided a cash infusion, as Paradigm brought in former Warner Bros TV boss and ex-Television Academy chairman/CEO Bruce Rosenblum to be an advisor.
Here is the diversity memo sent by Sam Gores to staff this afternoon, a copy of which was obtained by Deadline:
Over the past several days, we have had conversations with Paradigm employees, who have shared candid thoughts about their work experiences at the agency. Through that dialogue, we have had a unique opportunity to look in the mirror and ask whether we have done enough to foster diversity and inclusion at Paradigm. Despite having diversity initiatives in place for several years, our efforts to increase Paradigm’s diversity have not created the desired measurable and institutional change. For that, we recognize we must do better.
We are committed to diversity and inclusion as a core value of Paradigm at all levels of the organization and to ensuring that employees feel welcome, that their voices are heard, and that meaningful opportunities for their career growth, empowerment and success are provided.
We have already begun the search for an executive to lead our diversity initiatives and we know we must deliver tangible results as we move forward from here.
We will refocus our efforts to target qualified agents and executives of color as well as recruits from colleges and universities across the nation, including graduates of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). We will enhance our career training and individual mentoring – all with the goal of increasing the diversity of our workforce and providing our team members with a clear path for career advancement and success. This is paramount to our collective future.
As we have previously said, the agency is committed to bringing back as many temporarily laid off employees as possible and we continue that effort on an ongoing basis.
Stay safe and healthy.