EXCLUSIVE: One day after bringing in longtime WME partner Brian Swardstrom, UTA has added his colleague, talent agent Danie Streisand. Like Swardstrom, with whom she shared some clients, Streisand will work out of the agency’s New York offices. I’m …
BREAKING: Brian Swardstrom has landed at United Talent Agency as a partner, and he will work out of the New York office. Swardstrom comes to UTA after a four-year stint at WME and before that he was a partner at Endeavor and ran the talent department for 11 years. It has to play out to see which clients he will bring over with him to his new digs, but it looks like Swartstrom is going to bring most of them and it is a solid list of actors and directors and this it certainly bolsters UTA’s list.
That list includes Tilda Swinton, Dexter‘s Michael C. Hall, Homeland‘s Damian Lewis, Edward Norton, Diane Lane, Frances McDormand, Bill Paxton, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch, Rooney Mara, Claire Danes, Michael Douglas, Patrick Stewart, Richard Gere, Jessica Lange, John Lithgow, David Oyelowo, Jonathan Groff, Jamie Bell, Scott Speedman, Ray Stevenson, Julie Christie, and Tracey Ullman, and filmmakers including Fifty Shades Of Grey helmer Sam Taylor-Johnson, Luca Guadagnino, Ira Sachs and Oren Moverman. I’m told the latter two are staying put at WME. Swardstrom will be joining about 12 other agents in the New York office of UTA. This brings the number of UTA partners to 30.
Swardstrom’s exit played out over the past few weeks at WME, but he and agency leaders Ari Emanuel, Patrick Whitesell and others spent so many years ago it wasn’t really acrimonious. They couldn’t come to financial terms.
On the heels of the agency’s multi-billion dollar acquisition of IMG last week, WME is now bringing on a hefty new CFO. Reporting to co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell former Microsoft CFO Peter Klein is joining the megagency immediately. In his new role, Klein will oversee the financials of both WME and the sports management and talent company once the purchase is formally closed. Big job. Read the release below:
BEVERLY HILLS, CA – December 23, 2013– William Morris Endeavor Entertainment (WME), one of the world’s leading talent, entertainment and media companies, today announced the appointment of Peter Klein as Chief Financial Officer, effective immediately. In this role, Mr. Klein will oversee the global finance operation across WME, and IMG Worldwide (IMG) upon transaction close, and will report to the co-CEOs of WME, Patrick Whitesell and Ariel Emanuel.
The Hollywood agency and its financial cohort Silver Lake Partners have emerged from a pack of deep-pocketed suitors and are near a deal to acquire talent and management powerhouse IMG Worldwide. Deal figures have been murky during this entire bidding process, but we’re hearing the sale price is around $2 billion. A deal is imminent, we’re told, but no announcement is coming tonight. Other details: IMG, the powerhouse firm that reps athletes and models among several divisions, would function independently under the new structure, but its owners Forstmann Little would have have no equity stake.
If and when this one makes, it will enlarge agency powerhouse WME and put the latest feather in the caps of WME co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell, who have been focused on big-picture growth since their Endeavor merged with William Morris in 2009. Since then they have expanded WME’s reach on several fronts including digital, culminating in May 2012 when WME and Silver Lake launched their strategic digital partnership, with the private equity firm acquiring a 31% non-controlling stake in the agency.
UPDATE, 10:51 AM: After the scathing lawsuit filed earlier this week against her by the producers of Jane Got A Gun, director Lynne Ramsay has responded. In a brief statement today, Ramsay’s reps says she hasn’t seen the suit yet but that from what has been reported, the claims in it are “simply false.” The director suddenly exited the Natalie Portman pic the weekend before filming was scheduled to start in New Mexico in March. If that wasn’t controversy enough, the breach of contract and fraud complaint (read more below) filed on in federal court on November 4 lashed out at Ramsay, calling her “abusive” and “disruptive.” The suit also goes after her for failing “to provide the writing and directing services” she was already paid $140,000 for before filming was set to start. Additionally, the suit alleges that Ramsay instructed her WME agents not to give the producers back the $360,000 that the agency is holding in escrow as part of her pay from the film. Ramsay was supposed to receive $750,000 for directing Jane Got A Gun plus bonuses. The complaint is seeking more than $500,000 in damages to be determined at trial. Here’s the full Ramsay statement from today:
Lynne Ramsay has not been served with this lawsuit and, when she is, she will respond in court and not in the media. That said, the allegations as recently reported are simply false. Lynne looks forward to presenting the truth about this situation in the proper forum.
PREVIOUSLY, NOV. 6 PM: She left the Natalie Portman Western in March before shooting was set to start and now the producers want Lynne Ramsay to pay up. More specifically, Jane Got A Gun Production, LLC wants an injunction to force Ramsay’s agency WME to give back $360,000 it claims is still being held in escrow as well as more than $500,000 in damages to be determined at trial. The breach of contract and fraud complaint (read it here) was filed earlier this week in federal court in New Mexico. Ramsay is the only defendant named in the filing that local station KRQE first reported. The producers, who include Scott Steindorff and Regency Boies, allege that under a contract agreed to in July 2012, Ramsay was initially paid $90,000 to direct the pic and $50,000 to fine-tune the Brian Duffield script. She was to receive $750,000 in total for her directing work on the pic plus 5% of adjusted gross and box office bonuses. Ramsay would have gotten another $25,000 for each Oscar or Golden Globe nomination the movie received and $50,000 more if it won one of those awards. However on location in New Mexico during early 2013 the complaint says the We Need To Talk About Kevin helmer “failed to provide the writing and directing services” on the film. The plaintiffs also claim that this “unreasonably delayed completion of a final budget for the Picture, and of the Picture itself.” Further more, they luridly allege in the 44-page complaint that Ramsay was “repeatedly under the influence of alcohol, was abusive to members of the cast and crew and was generally disruptive.” Portman herself and producer Aleen Keshishian are not party to the suit.
EXCLUSIVE: Hip-hop mogul, film and television producer and entrepreneur Russell Simmons has signed with WME for representation in all areas. He was at CAA. The representation shift follows the Def Jam founder’s decision earlier this year to move full time to Los Angeles to focus on building his film and TV businesses, run by Jake Stein and recently appointed Chris Conti, respectively. Under a two-year first-look deal at HBO, which Simmons inked in May, he is executive producing a high-profile new drama project from 12 Years A Slave director Steve McQueen.
Reporting from Jerusalem
With the TV business evolving at a rapid pace, Lionsgate COO of television, Sandra Stern, mused on Tuesday that “every generation is now 15 minutes old.” She made the remark on a panel here at Keshet’s Innovative TV Conference and was joined by eOne TV CEO John Morayniss and WME agent and partner Marc Korman. The execs discussed shifting paradigms, a potential talent shortage and the wisdom of remakes.
Business models are changing and “Everybody is looking around saying ‘How do we make noise?’” But “if you do good work, the audiences are going to find you,” Stern commented. Lionsgate’s Orange Is The New Black found a lot of love when it debuted on Netflix this summer. Morayniss noted that along with Netflix and other new entrants, there are “probably over 50 networks in the U.S. that are commissioning original scripted programming.” EOne is teamed with Discovery on Klondike, the net’s first original. “Good shows will rise to the top, there will be a market, and money will be made.”
Yet another Halloween-themed video, this time from the WME Motion Picture Department. It’s called ‘The Pitching Hour’ and I spent 5:47 minutes of my vacation watching it. I want that time back.