CAA ICM takeover may shake up talent business



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CAA finalizes ICM Partners takeover Image: Pedro Marroquin on Unsplash

Century City (neighborhood in California, US)-based Creative Artists Agency (CAA) has completed its acquisition of neighboring ICM Partners in a landmark deal that is likely to transform Hollywood’s talent agency business.

‘Los Angeles Times’ stated that the two companies announced the deal in a statement sent out on June 28th and said they would have 3,200 employees across 25 countries.

The Creative Artists Agency LLC is an American talent and sports agency based in Los Angeles, California (US). It is regarded as an influential company in the talent agency business and manages numerous clients. In March 2016, CAA had 1,800 employees.

ICM Partners is a talent and literary agency with offices in Los Angeles, New York City, Washington, D.C., and London. ICM Partners represents clients in the fields of motion pictures, television, music, publishing, live performance, branded entertainment, and new media.

‘Los Angeles Times’ further stated that the takeover was first announced in September but took longer than expected to clear a regulatory review by the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission as the industry experiences a wave of deal-making.

Although financial terms were not disclosed, the acquisition was valued at $750 million, putting a combined value for the two businesses, including debt of $5 billion, according to a reliable source.

The deal reduces the number of top agencies to three dominant players: CAA, WME and United Talent Agency. ICM is the fourth largest firm. The combination of the two companies will give the emerging entity the heft to better compete against Beverly Hills-based Endeavor (the parent of WME), which has been on a growth spree and last year held an initial public offering.

Formed in 1898, WME is the longest-running talent agency. In 2009, William Morris Agency (WMA) merged with Endeavor to become one of the leading entertainment and media companies with an unparalleled list of artistes and content creators.

The United Talent Agency is a global talent agency based in Beverly Hills, California (US). Established in 1991, it represents artistes and other professionals across the entertainment industry. As of 2021, the company has more than 1,400 global employees.

CAA Co-Chairmen Kevin Huvane, Bryan Lourd and Richard Lovett said in a joint statement, “Today (June 28th) marks a new chapter in the history of our company, positioning us better than ever to deliver extraordinary opportunities for many of the world’s pre-eminent artistes, athletes, thought leaders, brands, and organizations in entertainment, sports and culture.”

The pairing, however, will mean significant jobs losses at ICM: 425 ICM employees will join CAA as part of the deal, but 105 are being cut, said a person familiar with the sale.

CAA’s acquisition of its smaller rival is part of a wider consolidation that is reshaping Hollywood as media companies boost their film and TV offerings for streaming platforms. It comes at a time of rapid changes in the talent representation industry, where power has shifted away from A-list actors and directors toward creators of content such as writers and producers.

Said Stephen Galloway, Dean of Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, “There is this belief that synergy is power and that when you control the talent, you can make things happen. There has been through the past couple of decades a trend towards consolidation across the industry, which, frankly, is very troubling. None of this is great for individual clients and talent.”

CAA will now have access to ICM’s lucrative publishing business and its top clients, including ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ creator Shonda Rhimes, actor Samuel L. Jackson, Director Spike Lee and Ellen DeGeneres. ICM also represents ‘Breaking Bad’ creator Vince Gilligan and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ creator Bruce Miller.

CAA already represents such prominent talent as showrunner Ryan Murphy, actors Reese Witherspoon and Tom Hanks, and musical artistes such as America singer Ariana Grande.

ICM’s Chris Silbermann and Ted Chervin said in a joint statement, “Combining with the best-in-class agency to build an even greater representation company for our clients and our colleagues is the core strategic reason for this move. We couldn’t be more enthusiastic about our future together, and are energized by the sophisticated, forward-thinking representation we offer clients.”

CAA previously announced that it had bought full ownership of the CAA-GBG Global Brand Management Group, a brand management agency. In June, Beverly Hills-based United Talent Agency said it had expanded its international footprint by acquiring one of United Kingdom’s biggest literary and talent companies, the Curtis Brown Group.

But CAA, ICM and other agencies have weathered a tough period over the last two years.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, several agencies laid off workers after productions shut down and live events were canceled.

Agencies also were squeezed by the effects of a losing battle with the Writers Guild of America that forced them to rein in the use of packaging fees and affiliated productions that had helped them diversify their business.

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