William Morris Endeavor
|Industry||Talent and Literary Agencies|
|Founded||2009 (in Beverly Hills)|
|Headquarters||Beverly Hills, California, United States|
Ari Emanuel, Co-CEO
William Morris Endeavor (also known as WME) is the world's largest diversified talent agency, with offices in Beverly Hills, New York City, London, Miami, and Nashville. The company was founded in April 2009, after the merger of the William Morris Agency and the Endeavor Agency. WME represents artists across all media platforms, specifically movies, television, music, theatre, digital and publishing. It also represents a variety of entertainment brands, including the WWE, the UFC, and the NFL. The company is run by Co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell.
- 1 History
- 2 WME and Silver Lake
- 3 Departments
- 4 Philanthropy
- 5 WME Retreat
- 6 References
- 7 External links
- 8 Further reading
WME's history traces back to 1898, when the William Morris Agency was founded to represent vaudeville performers. As the entertainment industry evolved, so did WMA, which soon expanded into television, film, literature and music representation. Throughout its 111-year history, WMA represented iconic clients like Elvis Presley, Charlie Chaplin, Bill Cosby, Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe, as well as current WME clients Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe.
The Endeavor Talent Agency launched in 1995, nearly 100 years after WMA, and rapidly grew to include clients from every facet of the entertainment industry. By 2009, Endeavor was one of the fastest-growing Hollywod talent agencies, with the New York Times singling out its reputation for "quick thinking, ferocity and barely bridled ambition." At the time of the WME merger, Endeavor represented some of the world's most successful actors, including Sacha Baron Cohen, Larry David, Mark Wahlberg, Ben Stiller, Ben Affleck, Adam Sandler, and Matt Damon (all of whom are current WME clients).
On April 27, 2009, WMA and the Endeavor Talent Agency announced that they were forming William Morris Endeavor, or WME. Endeavor executives Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell were widely seen as the architects of the merger and quickly became the Co-CEOs of WME.
The formation of WME still stands as the biggest talent agency merger of all time. One of the initial goals was to play off each company's strengths and form a robust, multi-faceted entertainment firm, which catered to artists across every genre. In 2011, Emanuel was quoted in a Financial Times profile about the company, saying "We built a culture where people are rewarded for taking risks." Emanuel and Whitesell have implemented several leadership strategies to boost the productivity of their agents, most notably, the "Farmhouse" training program.
Following the merger, WME moved its headquarters into the offices of Endeavor. The company now takes up several floors at 9601 Wilshire Boulevard in the heart of Beverly Hills. Additionally, WME has offices in New York, London, Miami, and Nashville.
Since the merger, WME has grown to include several subsidiary companies and expanded divisions. Fortune named Co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell to their 2010 "Businessperson of the Year" list, acknowledging their corporate growth strategies. Emanuel had previously been recognized as a 21st-century "super agent" by both The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian, as well as an Advertising Age "Influencer."
Shortly after the merger, WME helped launch the investment group Raine, which aligned the company with properties like Vice Media and Zumba Fitness. In 2010 WME partnered with RED Interactive, giving clients access to an award-winning digital advertising agency. Two years later, they formed an alliance with the social media management firm TheAudience, partnering with digital entrepreneur Sean Parker and executing social campaigns for properties like Ted and the Coachella Music Festival. March 2013 brought a strategic partnership between WME and the Austin-based design studio Chaotic Moon, giving clients the opportunity to build apps and create custom content for the mobile space. WME is also an investor in the e-commerce platform OpenSky, which was named one of America's "Most Promising Companies" by Forbes. In 2013, Whitesell and Emanuel were profiled in Fast Company, highlighting the company's digital growth.
In July 2013, WME acquired a minority stake in the global creative agency Droga5. The partnership combines the companies’ advertising and entertainment resources, creating new opportunities for their collective clients in the branded content and marketing space. Founded by David Droga, Droga5 was named Adweek’s 2012 Agency of the Year and oversees accounts for Coca-Cola, Motorola and Spotify.
Describing the partnership, The New York Times wrote, “As consumers increasingly ignore traditional advertising and are bombarded with a constant stream of content, both online and offline, advertisers have been forced to find more compelling ways to get their attention. WME could help provide the answer given its substantial reach in television, publishing, music, film and theater."
WME and Silver Lake
On May 2, 2012, WME and Silver Lake, a technology-focused private equity firm based in Silicon Valley, announced a strategic partnership and signed an agreement for Silver Lake to acquire a 31% minority stake in the agency. WME's Management Board continues to oversee the day-to-day operations of the agency's core businesses. A new executive committee, consisting of Co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell and Silver Lake Partners Managing Director Egon Durban, leads the company's growth strategy and investment activities. The Silver Lake deal drew the attention of several leading financial publications, including Forbes, The Financial Times, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.
WME's agents specialize in a broad variety of entertainment sectors. Company divisions include Talent, Motion Pictures, Scripted Television, Non-Scripted Television, Music, Literary, Theatre, Commercials, Lectures, and Branded Lifestyle.
WME's motion picture clients represent a diverse mix of Academy Award winners, independent fimmakers and box office stars. Current motion picture clients include Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Emma Stone, Hugh Jackman, Robert Redford, Dwayne Johnson, Charlize Theron, John Travolta and Javier Bardem.
Additionally, WME represents the film world's most recognizable writers and directors, such as Michael Bay, Tim Burton, Quentin Tarantino, Tyler Perry, Christopher Nolan, Ridley Scott, Guillermo Del Toro and Martin Scorsese.
WME represents music artists across nearly every genre, including rock, pop, urban, country, Latin and adult contemporary. The music clients include a mix of acclaimed Grammy Award winners (Adele, Bruno Mars, Alicia Keys), touring juggernauts (Lady Gaga, Rihanna, The Killers), and multiplatinum icons (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers). WME's artists have had a huge impact on the live touring industry, leading Billboard to name the company "Top Touring Agency" of 2012.
WME's music agents have also been recognized throughout the industry. Department head Marc Geiger was ranked 9th on Billboard's 2013 "Power 100 List" and company partner Sara Newkirk was featured in Billboard's 2013 "Women In Music" issue. WME's Kirk Sommer was named "Most Influential Agent" by Paper Magazine in 2012 and agents Joel Zimmerman and Sam Kirby were named in the "50 Most Influential People in EDM" list by In The Mix.
WME's Electronic Music division represents some of the most prominent DJ's in the music business, including Deadmau5, Kaskade, Steve Aoki, and Afrojack. The EM agents were largely credited as the architects of the Las Vegas DJ residency business model. The company's Nashville office represents the industry's most successful country artists, such as Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, and Rascal Flatts.
WME represents artists from the scripted and non-scripted television space. In 2012, agency clients Claire Danes and Damian Lewis won Emmy Awards in the lead dramatic acting categories for Homeland and WME talent Amy Poehler, LL Cool J, Johnny Galecki, and Juliana Margulies headlined the season's most popular shows.
WME's television clients also include the most recognized personalities in the non-scripted space, including Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Phil, and the Kardashian sisters. On the production side, WME represents television's most successful showrunners, such as Dick Wolf, Seth MacFarlane, Kevin Williamson, David E. Kelley, Kurt Sutter, and Howard Gordon.
WME's Literary Department is co-headed by Suzanne Gluck, Eric Simonoff, and WME board member Jennifer Rudolph Walsh. Its clients publish over 200 books a year in over 40 languages, giving WME the largest presence of any agency on the New York Times Best Seller list. In 2013, client Sheryl Sandberg released her debut book, Lean In, which topped multiple bestseller lists and sold 140,000 copies its first week of publication. Other notable authors represented by WME include Judy Blume, Tom Clancy, Malcolm Gladwell, Kathy Reichs, James Frey, Stephen J. Dubner, Steven Levitt, and Jeannette Walls. The company's Literary Department also helps authors branch out into mediums like television and film, negotiating deals for book-to-screen adaptations.
Top literary agent Eric Simonoff joined the company in 2009 from Janklow & Nesbit Associates, bringing with him three Pulitzer Prize-winners, 17 New York Times bestselling authors, and 14 New Yorker contributors. WME's UK Literary Department is headed by Simon Trewin.
WME's Theatre Department represents actors, directors, writers and choreographers of Tony Award-winning shows like In the Heights, Avenue Q, Hair, Jersey Boys, and Once. They also bring motion picture and television talent to the stage, working with clients like Trey Parker and Matt Stone on the launch of The Book of Mormon. Additionally, the department transitions theatre clients into new mediums, helping to break out TV and film talent and expand productions into new formats.
WME's Lecture Division represents a selection of speakers from a wide variety of fields, including national and global affairs, media relations, business and economics, health and science, humor, and sports and motivation. Clients include Donny Deutsch, Joe Scarborough, Joel Osteen, Paula White, Paul Watson and Ed Rendell. The Lectures Department also handles speaking opportunities for clients across all WME divisions.
Commercials & Endorsements
WME's Commercials Division helps partner clients with notable brands like Visa, AT&T, Trident Gum, Samsung, Gatorade, Gucci, Mercedes, Pepsi and Absolut Vodka. It covers commercials, animation, non-performing public appearances, direct marketing, home shopping and tour sponsorships. The department is also involved in client voiceover opportunities for commercials, animation and video games.
In 2007, WME Board Member Jon Rosen launched the agency's Branded Lifestyle Group, which aims to build multiplatform businesses for personalities and brands in all areas of lifestyle entertainment. The group takes a holistic approach to representation, providing opportunities and strategies for clients across all areas of the company, including television, merchandising, licensing, publishing, and digital distribution. Clients like Rachael Ray, Guy Fieri Giada de Laurentiis, Andrew Zimmern, Alton Brown, Tom Colicchio, Bobby Flay, and John Varvatos have been able to successfully cross multiple mediums, including television, fashion, literature and consumer products.
WME Digital represents some of the most popular properties in the digital space, including The Onion, Pitchfork Media and Vice as well as notable online personalities like Felicia Day, Ray William Johnson, and Brit Morin. The department also helped structure precedent-defining deals for the popular web series Burning Love, Web Therapy, and Childrens Hospital, all of which were later repurposed for primetime TV. WME Digital also plays a role in the agency's active start-up investing practice.
In 2009, the partners of William Morris Endeavor formed the WME Foundation, which promotes arts and education to disadvantaged children. The Foundation currently works with Compton-based Stephen S. Foster Elementary School and Franklin S. Whaley Middle School, as well as the New York-based Fresh Creek School, organizing mentorship programs, beautification days and events with WME clients. It also assists with the charities of company clients, offering philanthropic consultations and support.
Clients whose charities have benefitted from the Foundation's advisory services include Charlize Theron, Hank Azaria, Usher, and Alicia Keys. In 2011, the company created Camp Summer Eagle, which provides donations and activities for schoolchildren in Compton, California.
Dubbed a "brain spa" by The Wall Street Journal, WME's annual retreat has gained notoriety for its seminars and list of influential guest speakers. Held in Carlsbad, California, it gathers employees from the company's four offices for a three-day event filled with lectures and live entertainment. Typical panels discuss topics like economics, digital trends, wellness and global affairs. Past speakers include Al Gore, Karl Rove, Tony Blair, Elon Musk, Sean Parker, Tony Hsieh, Nouriel Roubini, and Rahm Emanuel.
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