The long smoldering fire sale of Paradigm’s stronghold music division to Casey Wasserman has finally happened. Paradigm CEO Sam Gores announced a sale and called it as a “win for all parties,” with Wasserman taking possession of the assets in the second quarter of this year. This will bring up the inevitable question of what is left for Paradigm, an agency that built into a respectable boutique, housed in the old ICM headquarters on Wilshire and fueled by the cash from its music touring business.
While there’s no telling when the touring business will return and acts like Billie Eilish, Coldplay and Ed Sheeran go back out and pack stadiums, the leverage was strong for Wasserman to make a deal that allows him to float the division, because there is no income with the music artists beyond a percentage of the live touring revenues. Some will wonder if Gores was wrong to pull back on offers made by agencies like UTA, which got close to buying it in 2019 long before the pandemic. He had no choice this time, as his brother Tom Gores took the reigns and called the shots as he footed the bills, sources said. Tom Gores will be a part backer for this spun-off agency with Wasserman, which has yet to be named. Still trying to ballpark the value of a debt-laden transaction, but this move allowed Tom Gores to shed the costs of an operation that doesn’t have the benefit of passive package income, and it should keep those music agents and their clients in place.
The question in town will be, what does the future look like for Paradigm, stripped of its diamond asset? While the “win win” Gores describes certainly covers himself and his brother, can the agency recover? It was already on the rocks after a wild 2020 pandemic year in which Gores was criticized for the callous nature of a March purge of nearly 200 that at the time was called “temporary” but was announced to be permanent later that fall. Even among the agents who remain, there is not a lot of good will in the air for ownership after all of what went down, we’re told.
Paradigm certainly isn’t the only talent agency landscape forever altered by Covid, and the changes in packaging and affiliated production companies that the WGA fought for and won. All the big agencies have lost rising star dealmakers who left to form smaller management companies in the shakeout.
Paradigm assures in its announcement that it will not fold its tent but rather is in “active discussions regarding strategic partners for its Talent and Literary business.” We will have to wait and see what’s left for the good agents who’ve hung on, and just how viable that agency can be without the division that made it so desirable to rival percenteries and gave it cache as an alternative to the majors. Many of the agents who helped build it to pre-pandemic levels are long gone. Stay tuned.