CAA & ICM Honchos Talk Acquisition: Client Benefits, Office Space, Antitrust Review

By Mike Fleming Jr, Nellie Andreeva

Richard Lovett Bryan Lourd Kevin Huvane Chris Silbermann
(L-R) CAA's Richard Lovett, Bryan Lourd and Kevin Huvane and ICM's Chris Silbermann AP; Mega; ICM Partners

The bombshell acquisition of ICM Partners by CAA will strengthen a collective commitment to client representation, the principals behind the deal said in an interview with Deadline on Monday morning.

Among other issues, CAA’s Richard Lovett, Bryan Lourd and Kevin Huvane and ICM Partners head Chris Silbermann told Deadline they believe the deal will pass muster from an antitrust standpoint, and with the guilds. The agencies eventually will end up in one headquarters, but for now they are in physical proximity so there will be no rush once both offices fully reopen after being long shuttered by the Covid pandemic.

The deal takes shape as all the major agencies end the packaging business that was a staple, after a brutal standoff with the Writers Guild last year. The principals said the key to their optimism is the core reason behind the linkup of two major agencies.

“What this deal does is make it super clear this Chris’ group and our group, our whole strategy is about representation, and about being aggressive advocates for artists,” Lourd said. “With this deal, we feel really righteous about it, and it’s going to serve the clients in every capacity. All the traditional clients in movies, television, music and the athletes and organizations around those athletes in a much stronger, better way. We feel we’ve got more resources in a combined way. There are brilliant leaders at ICM. Chris and Ted [Chervin] started so long ago and looking way back, this is a transformative moment for both companies. We are psyched about it. We are not going to be able to comment on some of the things you are asking, but understand that in our minds, one plus one equals a lot more than two.”

Asked how long these talks have taken place, Lourd joked: “We’ve been talking about 31 years, and I’m not kidding. We all go back, and started at a similar time, and have been around the same field, and there has always been a chemistry, and clarity about purpose. We’ve been through a bunch of situations together inside and outside the business. But in this chapter, it started months ago, with conversations amongst all of us, when it finally felt like it was the right time.”

Said Silbermann, who will be joining CAA’s shareholder board: “Timing is everything, we see the world the same way, clients first, and we got more excited the more we talked about it, and the more possibilities we saw, and the dreams we could fulfill. We realized now is the time, and if not now, never.”

Said Huvane: “We’ve known each other long time. There is mutual respect, and a nice friendships over the years with several people over at ICM that makes this right.”

This morning, as word about a pending deal began to spread, some wondered about layoffs – numerous agents and support staff were let go in the consolidation that followed the WMA and Endeavor link-up – and whether the combination of two of the four “major agencies” will pass muster with the guilds and with antitrust regulators.

Lourd said they could not comment in this early stage on the prospect of layoffs or the guilds – “we just finished this literally at 8:17 a.m.” – but on the antitrust matters, he said: “We don’t foresee any real issues or problems. We’ve consulted with everyone who would have informed opinion. We will go through the process, file, and wait for and answer any questions from anyone about why we are doing this. I don’t want to presume anything. We have very close relationships with many leaders outside the company, who understand why building with more resources and a stronger culture that is absolutely about clients first, and not about other businesses, is more important than ever.”

CAA chief Lovett addressed the physical office space issue.

“The most important thing to really know here is that we are a culture-driven company, and we’ll be one company,” he said. “What made this possible is the shared values we have with Chris, Ted and the colleagues and partners at ICM, all of whom want to work in this deeply collaborative way. In order to do that, we will all end up working in one physical space.”

They weren’t sure when that will happen, and when we surmised they’ll move into CAA’s spacious Century City headquarters, Lourd quipped: “Luckily Chris, being a psychic, chose a space that is a walk from where we are now. So we expect we will be walking back and forth in Century City, like it is New York City. No decisions yet beyond that.”

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