Creative Artists Agency
||This article appears to be written like an advertisement. (October 2013)|
|Founded||Beverly Hills, California, US (1975)|
|Headquarters||Century City, Los Angeles, California (US)|
Richard Lovett, President
Talent agents employed by the William Morris Agency—Mike Rosenfeld, Michael Ovitz, Ron Meyer, William Haber, and Rowland Perkins—met over dinner one night in 1975 after they discovered that they all had the same idea in mind: creating an agency of their own. Before they could obtain adequate financing for their new venture, they were fired.
By early 1975, Creative Artists Agency was in business, with a $35,000 line of credit and a $21,000 bank loan, in a small Century City rented office outfitted with card tables and folding chairs. The five agents had only two cars among them, and their wives took turns as agency receptionist. Within about a week, according to one industry insider, they had sold their first three packages, a game show called 'Rhyme and Reason', the 'Rich Little Show' and the 'Jackson Five Show'.
At first, CAA's founders planned to form a medium-sized, full-service agency—one that was as unlike Morris as possible in approach and feel. Ovitz, who shortly assumed de facto leadership of the agency, described the company's corporate culture as a blend of Eastern philosophy and team sports. 'I liken myself to the guy running down the court with four other players and throwing the ball to the open guy,' he once said. Their partnership was based on teamwork with proceeds shared equally. There were no nameplates on doors, no formal titles, no individual agent client lists. Practices followed the company's two 'commandments': Be a team player and return phone calls promptly. There was an endless stream of meetings and talk. Because of this, others sometimes referred to CAA agents as the "Moonies" of the business according to the authors of Hit and Run, the best-selling Hollywood insider account by Griffin and Masters.
In the late 1980s, CAA's growing success enabled it to commission I.M. Pei to design a new headquarters building at the corner of Santa Monica and Wilshire Boulevards in Beverly Hills. Like most of Pei's work, the 75,000-square-foot (7,000 m2), three story building is a series of geometric forms: consisting of two curved wings, one mainly of glass and one mainly of masonry, set around a central atrium with a skylight that rises to become a low, conical glass tower. The vast 57-foot (17 m) high atrium was designed as an art-filled formal reception hall with a 100-seat screening room and gourmet kitchen and displays a 27-foot (8.2 m) by 18-foot (5.5 m) mural by Roy Lichtenstein, "Bauhaus Stairway: The Large Version". The mural was created specifically for the building and is too large to move. Ovitz was enamored of Asian culture, and incorporated feng shui design practices to allow chi, or positive energy, to flow smoothly through the building.
In 2007, CAA relocated to a new headquarters building in Century City. Ovitz still owns the agency's former building, along with three of his former CAA colleagues—Universal Studios President Ron Meyer, producer Bill Haber and former Chief Financial Officer Robert Goldman.
The current management team headed by Richard Lovett devised a four-point strategy in 1995 to keep competitors at bay during its transitional year: Make sure the 100-plus agents remain committed to the new CAA; re-sign longtime clients whose primary relationship was with Ovitz or Meyer; sign up new clients; and put together new movies.
Ovitz, Meyer, and Haber's departure led inevitably to an exodus of some of CAA's top-marquee names. In addition, there was some internal turmoil with respect to management. Talent Agent Jay Moloney was originally part of the transition team. However, due to his increasingly serious drug addiction, he was fired and later committed suicide.
With its stable full of actors and about $90 million in annual bookings in the late 1980s, the agency, led by Ovitz, decided to get into movies.
By the mid-1990s, CAA had 550 employees, about 1400 of Hollywood's top talent, and $150 million in revenue. The company divided its agents into two camps: traditional agents, who oversaw the careers of CAA's 1,000 stars, and specialists, whose expertise in investment banking, consulting, and advertising made CAA into a one-stop shop for digital media. When Ron Meyer and Michael Ovitz left in 1995 for MCA and Disney respectively, the entertainment community watched to see if CAA would fall from the top.
In 1996, CAA's managing partners founded the CAA Foundation. Entirely underwritten by CAA, the Foundation is able to tap into the agency's cultural resources to create positive social change. The Foundation aims to do this by encouraging volunteerism, facilitating strategic partnerships, granting financial contributions, and providing in-kind donations. In February 2012, the Foundation engaged with The Insight Labs to envision new means of mobilizing parents and communities for education reform. One outgrowth of this lab was the "School Is Not School" manifesto, a conversation-starting challenge to the narrow aims of most existing education reform.
In 1998, CAA established CAA Marketing, which serves CAA brands and corporate clients while leveraging the power of the branded and integrated entertainment space to create "strategic content". CAA Marketing is responsible for award winning content including Chipotle's "Back to the Start" short video featuring Willie Nelson covering Coldplay's "The Scientist".
CAA had long resisted the notion of opening a base of operations in Manhattan. In March 2003, in a surprise move with significant implications for the theatre world and the agency business, William Morris Agency theater topper, George Lane, and fellow agent in charge of foreign rights, Michael Cardonick, ankled the William Morris Agency to create a New York City office and theatre department for CAA. Cardonick and Lane immediately dominated the marketplace, as "CAA’s stable of directors represented by Lane and Cardonick helmed 13 of the 32 shows running on Broadway" by May 2003.
In 2006, CAA began its expansion into sports. Athletes such as Sidney Crosby, Derek Jeter, Peyton Manning, David Beckham, and Cristiano Ronaldo and many agents from IMG have joined CAA. USA Today said, "In little more than one rim-rattling year, Creative Artists Agency—longtime superpower of actors, directors, writers, musicians and entertainment/corporate deal-making—has built CAA Sports from concept to colossus."
In January 2007, returning to their birthplace, Century City, CAA moved to a new building in Century City, a district in Los Angeles. The new headquarters are sometimes referred to by those outside of CAA as "The Death Star". The new building is even featured in the video game Midnight Club: Los Angeles.
In March 2009 Fast Company named CAA among the 50 Most Innovative Companies in the World, alongside Apple, Google and others, noting that "in Hollywood, there's CAA and then there's everybody else." Fortune named CAA "the entertainment industry's most influential organization."
In October, 2010, CAA created a strategic partnership with global private equity firm TPG Capital. TPG invested an undisclosed sum for a non-controlling 35% interest in the agency. The companies also created a $500 million pledge fund for investments." The transaction made fresh capital available to CAA to make acquisitions and expand its business, especially in burgeoning areas like sports and its overseas operations.
A History of CAA and Coke. By: Hein, Kenneth, Benezra, Karen, Brandweek, 10644318, 1/16/2006, Vol. 47, Issue 3.
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- AMC Slams “Ill- Conceived” ‘Walking Dead’ Lawsuit From Frank Darabont & CAA, (May 16, 2014).