Creative Artists Agency
|Limited liability company|
|Founded||Beverly Hills, California, US (1975)|
|Headquarters||Century City, Los Angeles, California (US)|
Richard Lovett, President
|Members||3,400 clients (2016)
299 staff (2016)
Creative Artists Agency or CAA is an American talent and sports agency based in Los Angeles, California. It is regarded a dominant and influential company in the talent agency business. It manages prestigious A-list clients in the entertainment and sports industries. In March 2016, CAA had 1,800 employees.
Creative Artists Agency was formed by a handful of agents at the William Morris Agency in 1975. At a dinner, Mike Rosenfeld, Michael Ovitz, Ron Meyer, William Haber, and Rowland Perkins decided to create their own agency. According to one report, the agents were fired by William Morris before they could obtain financing. Their firm was incorporated in Delaware and had a $35,000 line of credit and a $21,000 bank loan and rented a small Century City office. Within a week, they sold a game show called Rhyme and Reason, the Rich Little Show, and The Jackson 5ive. An early plan was to form a medium-sized full-service agency, share proceeds equally, and do without nameplates on doors or formal titles or individual client lists, with guidelines like "be a team player" and "return phone calls promptly."
The firm grew. Representing numerous A-list actors and having about $90 million in annual bookings in the late 1980s, Ovitz led the agency to expand into the film business. By the mid-1990s, CAA had 550 employees, about 1,400 of Hollywood's top talent, and $150 million in revenue. In the 1990s, CAA was owned mostly by several key agents, including Michael Ovitz, Bill Haber, and Ron Meyer. Haber was credited for the revival of top TV producer Aaron Spelling.
Ovitz excelled at "packaging talent for movies and TV projects" and negotiating large deals between Japanese conglomerates, such as Sony and Matsushita, with Hollywood studios, such as Columbia/TriStar and MCA. Ovitz expanded the agency into advertising and telecommunications. In 1992, the Coca-Cola company placed CAA in charge of much of its marketing campaign, to work alongside advertising agency McCann Erickson. In 1995, CAA was described as the industry's most powerful agency.
In the middle 1990s, however, there were major changes in management. In 1995, Ron Meyer was appointed as the head of MCA, and Ovitz left for Disney. The departure of Ovitz and Meyer brought an exodus of some of CAA's top-marquee names. Talent agent Jay Moloney was originally part of the transition but due to his drug addiction, he was fired and later committed suicide. In 1996, several CAA agents defected to rival agency William Morris Endeavor, taking with them prominent directors and actors. The partners founded the CAA Foundation in 1996 to create positive social change by encouraging volunteerism, partnerships, and donations. In 2012, it worked with Insight Labs for education reform, and contributed to its School Is Not School reform effort.
The agency continued to grow in the 21st century. In 2003, it opened a New York City office to manage theatre clients. From 2005 to 2015, CAA developed greater fiscal discipline, with more emphasis on profits, possibly as the result of the influence of private equity firms. During these years, CAA doubled in size, from 750 to 1,500 employees. In 2010, new technological developments such as the digital distribution of movies put strains on the industry. There was pressure to diversify into television, publishing, concerts, and find other ways to grow. In that year, private equity firm TPG Capital invested substantial sums in CAA; it invested $165 million with an additional $200 million in debt financing.
Agents are the core of the business, the behind-the-scenes players, putting together deals, while the public focus is on the moviemakers and actors and TV and film shows that they bring together. For some agents, CAA is a training ground to learn the business, and they leave after a few years sometimes to form their own talent agencies. CAA has employed top sports agents such as Tom Condon.
Talent agents, as an unwritten rule, prefer not to tout their own accomplishments, so as not to divert the spotlight from their clients. CAA president Richard Lovett is regarded as shunning media attention and keeping a low profile. Lovett took the job position at CAA in 1995, and he was described as a "skillful agent" with a "trademark ever-ready smile" adept at schmoozing and hobnobbing with colleagues and studio heads. Lovett was described in the Wall Street Journal as being "elegantly aggressive."
Top agencies frequently raid each other's staff, and when key people defect to rivals, it makes news headlines and often leads to legal battles over breach-of-contract claims. When agents defect, the rivalry can degenerate quickly into vicious battles played out in courtrooms and in the media. When several key CAA clients Will Ferrell and Chris Pratt defected to rival United Talent Agency (UTA) in 2015, and were later followed by ten agents, it erupted into a full-frontal legal battle between the warring agencies. In the lawsuit, CAA accused UTA of conducting a "lawless, midnight raid" as part of a "illegal and unethical conspiracy" with agents deliberately delaying meetings with clients to divert business to UTA. In a bitter lawsuit and countersuit between CAA and UTA in 2015, which began after a slew of CAA's agents departed for UTA, there were accusations of fraud, malicious untruths, lying, and a range of charges including a "breach of duty of loyalty" as well as "conspiracy to breach fiduciary duty."
Rivalry is not limited to rank-and-file agents, but can take the form of public barbs by company CEOs. Grudges can last for years; for example, movie producer Jay Weston sued CAA in 1979 about the rights to a film, and years later, it was revealed that Weston was "totally ostracized" by the agency. In effect, CAA would do the minimally required legal tasks of passing along required offers but otherwise staying uninvolved.
Top agents have had a reputation in the public's mind of living in a world of "fast cars, rooftop bars and foul-mouthed, phone-throwing power brokers," according to an account in the Los Angeles Times. CAA superagent Jay Moloney led a colorful yet self-destructive life. Moloney interned at CAA while studying at USC, became the right-hand man of Michael Ovitz, worked with clients such as Leonardo DiCaprio and made millions, dated actresses such as Jennifer Grey and Gina Gershon, and "battled personal demons" and became a "slave to cocaine"; Moloney committed suicide at age 35. In 2004 the HBO production entitled Entourage was made about a fictional Hollywood agent named Ari Gold. According to one report, the fictional Ari Gold character may have been based on a hybrid between an "even-keeled" Creative Artists Agency agent named Jeff Jacobs and an "abrasive 'go-for-the-jugular'" William Morris Endeavor agent named Ari Emmanuel. The report suggested that images like these may contribute to the public perception of agents as foul-mouthed and aggressive bullies. Perhaps because of its dominance in the industry, CAA agents have a reputation for being "coldhearted Hollywood power brokers," according to one report in the Wall Street Journal.
The talent agency business
The primary focus of the business is the deal: putting together content and talent in new ways to make new entertainment properties. In that sense, agencies serve as a "broker for information and opportunities." With many clients, agents charge a percentage fee based on monies that their clients make; one estimate was that CAA charges 10% of what its movie and television clients are paid. Most contracts made between writers and actors and directors with a talent agency last from one to three years. Contracts are an important part of the business.
CAA chiefs including Michael Ovitz, Ron Meyer and Bill Haber built the agency by packaging actors and directors with literary clients, but the scope of deal-making has widened in recent decades. For example, CAA crafted a deal between toy-maker Hasbro and DreamWorks and Paramount Pictures, along with numerous CAA writers and directors, to make the movie franchise Transformers. Sometimes deal-making entails creating new technology firms. CAA even manages deals with the estates of long-dead clients such as reggae musician Bob Marley, who died around 1986. CAA helped one former politician create an online career institute. CAA sold sponsorship rights for a baseball stadium in San Francisco.
While talent agencies can grow by making acquisitions, CAA has generally grown organically by bringing in new clients. The company divided its agents into two camps: traditional agents who manage the career tracks of 1,000 stars, and specialists in investment banking, consulting, advertising and digital media. The agency can use its more glamorous clients in film and TV to craft deals with steadier income streams; for example, using clients such as Julia Roberts, they can assemble marketing programs for less glamorous clients, such as Nationwide Insurance.
Like any business, talent agencies have to deal with contingencies such as recessions and strikes. For example, CAA's agents scrambled to deal with a strike by the Screen Actors Guild in 2008. When Hollywood agents change firms, and take stars and talent with them, it can have major financial repercussions for the departing agency, and can lead to much confusion as lawyers pour over the fine print of numerous contracts.
To market themselves, talent agencies often cater exclusive parties following awards ceremonies such as the Golden Globes. CAA has sometimes stepped beyond the bounds of propriety to harm its own public image. For example, in 2013, the agency threw a party at the Sundance Film Festival which caused embarrassment and a public relations backlash.
But the bash thrown by Hollywood's powerful Creative Artists Agency on Sunday night took festival revelry in an unexpectedly bawdy direction, as Sundance guests mingled with lingerie-clad women pretending to snort prop cocaine, erotic dancers outfitted with sex toys and an Alice in Wonderland look-alike performing a simulated sex act on a man in a rabbit costume.
CAA established CAA Marketing in 1998 to work with brands and clients for promotion purposes. CAA Marketing developed Chipotle's Back to the Start video. It created a marketing campaign for Coca-Cola.
CAA began an expansion into sports in 2006, under the leadership of CEO Richard Lovett. Athletes such as Sidney Crosby, Derek Jeter, Peyton Manning, David Beckham, and Cristiano Ronaldo and many agents from IMG have joined CAA. A report in USA Today suggested that CAA's development of its sports-related clientele was significant in 2007. A report in Nexus magazine in 2015 suggested that CAA was well-positioned to develop the E-Sports market. CAA puts together deals for sports stars such as writing their clients into fitness apps.
In 2010, TPG Capital gained a 35% interest in the agency and pledged $500 million for investments. The transaction enabled acquisitions in areas such as sports and overseas operations. It later sold a controlling stake to TPG Capital in October 2014. In 2015, TPG Capital was reported to own 53% of CAA. CAA is co-owner with an investment bank. Private equity firms have helped talent agencies make inroads into new and emerging businesses, with digital media firms such as Netflix, Amazon and Google. CAA has diversified into different businesses such as sports marketers and leagues and digital commerce. In 2014, CAA has been undergoing a transformation from relying solely on booking talent, into engineering multimedia deals worldwide.
In the late 1980s, CAA commissioned architect I. M. Pei to design a new headquarters building at the corner of Santa Monica and Wilshire Boulevards in Beverly Hills. The 75,000-square-foot (7,000 m2), three-story building consists of two curved wings set around a central atrium with a skylight that rises into a conical glass tower. The 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. The design used feng shui principles. In 2007, CAA relocated to a new building in Century City, a district of Los Angeles. The new headquarters are sometimes referred to as "The Death Star" by entertainment professionals. CAA has offices in Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, Nashville, London, Beijing, St. Louis, Stockholm, and Mumbai.
CAA was formed in 1975 from defections from the William Morris Agency, and there continue to be about four or five major talent agencies, although many reports suggest that CAA tends to be a dominant force in the industry.
In 2009, William Morris agency and Endeavor merged to form William Morris Endeavor (WME). In 2015, CAA and WME are the largest agencies in the business. In 2014 WME bought IMG Worldwide, a fashion and sports agency, for $2.4 billion. In 2014, WME had 4500 employees while CAA had 1500 employees. WME had a larger share of sports-related clients. The rivalry can get cantankerous: in one instance, the William Morris Endeavor agency placed dozens of ads around the city using Creative Artists Agency's red-and-white color signature with the headline being CAAN'T, a "playful nod to the CAA acronym." The agencies compete by "regularly poaching agents and clients from one another."
In Popular Culture
In Jay McInerney's short story The Business from How It Ended, the main character is a screenwriter represented by CAA. CAA's building is featured in the video game Midnight Club: Los Angeles.
CAA has a long list of A-list clients, including Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt,  Marion Cotillard, George Clooney, Will Smith, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, J. J. Abrams, Michael Douglas, Sharon Stone, Martin Scorsese, David Letterman, and numerous other stars and directors and filmmakers. Sports clients included Derek Jeter and David Beckham. Corporate clients included Coca-Cola and Mattel.
- CLAUDIA ELLER; SALLIE HOFMEISTER (July 18, 1995). "Company Town : Buzz Shifts to CAA Partner Bill Haber". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
...Hollywood is still reeling from the surprise appointment of Ron Meyer, the president of Creative Artists Agency, as head of MCA, after his partner Michael Ovitz turned down the job....
- Gimbel, Barney (2007-10-04). "CAA: A Hollywood Agency with Star Power". Money.cnn.com. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
- BEN FRITZ (March 1, 2016). "Head of CAA Says Talent Giant's Diversifying Interests Still Interconnect". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
...Few people in Hollywood have been as powerful for as long as Richard Lovett, and few of them have kept so low a profile. ....
- BEN FRITZ; ERICH SCHWARTZEL (February 3, 2014). "Hollywood Isn't Enough for Talent Agency CAA: With Its Dominance Threatened, Its Evolution Puts It Into New Businesses". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
...Within the entertainment industry, the glass-and-steel headquarters of Creative Artists Agency LLC is called the "Death Star," a reference to its occupants' reputation as coldhearted Hollywood power brokers...
- Cieply, Michael (July 2, 1989), "Inside the Agency - How Hollywood works: Creative Artists Agency and the men who run it", Los Angeles Times
- Diamond, Michael (2008), Corporations: A Contemporary Approach, Carolina Academic Press
- Karen Kaplan (August 18, 1995). "Company Town : The History Of The Super-agent". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
...Mid-1980s to present ... Michael Ovitz ... perfecting the art of packaging talent for movies and TV projects ... negotiating mega-deals ... into the uncharted waters of advertising and telecommunications.
- ALAN CITRON; BRUCE HOROVITZ (October 9, 1992). "Creative Artists Joins Coca-Cola's Ad Campaign : Marketing: CAA will develop and produce advertising in partnership with McCann-Erickson, Coke's New York ad agency". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
... Coca-Cola Co. has turned over sizable responsibility for its 1993 marketing campaign to Hollywood's Creative Artists Agency ... CAA may ultimately wield more creative clout over that marketing plan than McCann....
- Brown, Corrie (November 29, 1999), "The Last Days of Jay Moloney", Newsweek
- Claudia Eller (October 29, 1996). "Revolving Doors Continue to Swing at Creative Artists". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
... Hollywood agents ... financial ramifications for the company left behind because agents often walk out the door with many of their highly paid clients....
- Dwyer, Liz. "What if Schools Weren't Schools Anymore?". Good. Retrieved 17 September 2012.
- Robert Hofler (2003-05-09). "CAA opening Gotham digs". Variety.com. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
- Gabriel Sherman (2004-02-09). "George Lane Take His Act To C.A.A.-Mendes, Ensler in Tow". Observer.com. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
- Josh Rottenberg (July 10, 2015). "Wall Street investors to Hollywood talent agencies: 'Show us the money'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
...Hollywood's talent agencies have long had a reputation ... fast cars, rooftop bars and foul-mouthed, phone-throwing power brokers who will stop at nothing — and spare no expense — to advance their clients' interests.....
- LAUREN A. E. SCHUKER (October 4, 2010). "Hollywood's CAA Sells Stake to TPG". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
... The new environment leaves Hollywood's four top agencies facing a marketplace unlike any other in history, causing some—like ICM—to diversify its businesses by expanding its representation services further into television, publishing, and the concert arena.
- Emmett Knowlton (July 14, 2014). "Meet Rich Paul, The Man Who Orchestrated LeBron's Return To Cleveland". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
...Paul landed a job with ... Creative Artists Agency (CAA) ... in 2012, Paul left CAA to start Klutch Sports Group....
- Jarrett Bell (January 27, 2012). "Agent Tom Condon: Big clients, a lot of clout". USA Today. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
... Tom Condon ... arguably the NFL's most powerful agent, evidenced by his A-list of clients...
- John Horn (July 3, 2008). "Summer battle royal for agents: CAA looks to be the heavyweight champ this movie season.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
...Talent agents love the glory as much as anyone but generally prefer to keep the spotlight on their clients. ...
- CLAUDIA ELLER (April 22, 1997). "Earning CAAchet". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
... When Richard Lovett took over the top job at Creative Artists Agency in 1995, ... skillful agent....
- Yvonne Villarreal (April 1, 2015). "CAA agents stage exodus to rival United Talent Agency: At least 10 agents have defected from Creative Artists Agency to rival United Talent Agency". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
...Creative Artists Agency suffered a major blow this week with the defection of at least 10 agents ... start of a long-term legal battle... sue on breach-of-contract claims ....
- BROOKS BARNES; MICHAEL CIEPLY (April 2, 2015). "In Hollywood, A-List Talent Agencies Battle Over Departure of Agents". New York Times. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
...United Talent Agency ... stealing movie star clients like Will Ferrell and Chris Pratt from the powerful Creative Artists Agency... full-scale fight... filed suit ... for recruiting 10 of its agents in what it called a “lawless, midnight raid.” ... accuses United Talent and two defectors of organizing an “illegal and unethical conspiracy”....
- Matt Donnelly (October 12, 2015). "UTA Asks Court to Tone Down 'Irrelevant, Downright Lies' in CAA Lawsuit: "CAA has attempted to turn this matter into a slander campaign," according to documents filed Monday". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
...United Talent Agency is seeking a dramatic rewrite ... with UTA declaring CAA’s accusations of fraud and malice untruths ...
- Sharon Waxman (July 13, 2015). "Ari Emanuel Slams CAA at Fortune Conference: 'They're Still Stuck in the '90s': The co-CEO of WME says by the end of the year "we will exceed every number that was in the plan" to merge with IMG". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
...Ari Emanuel, co-CEO of William Morris Endeavor, said his rival CAA is “still stuck in the ’90s” ...
- Michael Cieply (July 2, 1989). "Inside the Agency : How Hollywood works: Creative Artists Agency and the men who run it". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
...a CAA grudge ... can last for years. ... Jay Weston ... made the mistake of suing the agency in 1979 over a film rights dispute ... totally ostracized ...
- Kyle Smith; Michael Fleeman; Alexandra Hardy (December 6, 1999). "Death in the Fast Lane: Superagent at 25, Suicide at 35, Jay Moloney Found Cocaine and Lost His Way". People Magazine. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
Vol. 52 No. 22 ... Jay Moloney ... crowned the boy wonder of Hollywood agents ... dated actresses Jennifer Grey and Gina Gershon ... slave to cocaine...
- Kim Masters (July 14, 2004). "Boy, that ego sure looks familiar: The fictional Ari Gold on HBO's 'Entourage' takes his abrasive cues from real-life agent Ari Emanuel.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
...the real attention-getter, at least in the power precincts of Hollywood, may be the caustic portrayal of the young star's agent, Ari Gold...
- Jonathan Pan; John Kim (September 11, 2015). "The Future of Esports: Part III: Are Esports Stars Born or Made?". The Nexus. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
... talent agencies are are critical to the future of sports and digital entertainment ... broker for information and opportunities....
- Michael Cieply (June 11, 2007). "At Creative Artists, a Bit of Blushing After a Corporate Kiss-Off". New York Times. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
... Creative Artists Agency, Hollywood’s pre-eminent talent representative, ... “Transformers” ... brought a lesson in the cold-hearted ways of corporate entertainment ... a scant month before the picture’s release ... Hasbro decided to jettison Creative Artists and jump to the rival William Morris, ...
- Note: Hasbro changed talent agencies a month before the film was released, and defected to the William Morris agency.
- Dawn C. Chmielewski (March 6, 2013). "Bob Marley family strikes deals with CAA, merchandiser Bravado". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
...Bob Marley died ... has attracted new deals with Creative Artists Agency and giant music merchandising company Bravado. ...
- Steve Poizner (August 18, 2011). "Encore Career Institute's real world job solutions". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
...Steve Poizner ... online university at UCLA, in partnership with Hollywood talent agency Creative Artists agency....
- E. J. Schulz (July 19, 2012). "See the Spot: Julia Roberts Partners With Nationwide Insurance: Campaign Takes More Serious Tone Than Previous Effort, 'World's Greatest Spokesperson in the World'". Ad Age. Retrieved May 11, 2016.
...A-list actress Julia Roberts does not appear in the insurer's new ads, but she serves as the voice-over for the campaign, called "Join the Nation."...
- LINDSAY KIMBLE (January 12, 2016). "Leonardo DiCaprio Enjoyed Golden Globes Afterparty Together Following Awards Show Run-In". People Magazine. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
...The pair were spotted ... at the Creative Artists Agency's Golden Globes afterparty...
- Chris Lee; John Horn (January 24, 2013). "A bawdy CAA party at Sundance shocks guests, including clients: Creative Artists Agency's party at the Sundance Film Festival, featuring scantily clad performers and sex toys, provokes a public relations backlash". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
... Sundance Film Festival ... bash thrown by Hollywood's powerful Creative Artists Agency on Sunday night took festival revelry in an unexpectedly bawdy direction....
- "Ari Emanuel: Agency Killer". AdWeek.
- Ann-Christine Diaz. (19 November 2007). "Stars Align". creativity-online.com.
- Ann-Christine Diaz. (9 July 2012). "Creativity 50 2012: CAA Marketing - Special Report: Creativity 50 - Advertising Age". adage.com.
- Business Wire (2008-07-09). "CAA Sports and International Soccer Agency Gestifute Create Global Partnership to Represent Top Talent". Businesswire.com. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
- Arnold, Thomas K. (2007-04-06). "Top Athletes Follow Celebs in Picking A-List Agents". Usatoday.com. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
- Adam Satariano; Douglas MacMillan (May 9, 2013). "Apps tied to sports stars growing". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
...Creative Artists Agency ... fitness app....
- McNary, Dave (2010-10-01). "TPG Capital buys stake in CAA". Variety.com. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
- Schuker, Lauren A. E. (October 4, 2010). "Hollywood's CAA Sells Stake to TPG". The Wall Street Journal.
- Mike Fleming Jr., October 20, 2014, Deadline Hollywood, TPG Spends $225 Million In Deal That Ups Stake In CAA To 53%, Accessed May 11, 2016
- Goldberger, Paul (December 17, 1989), "Architecture View; Refined Modernism Makes A Splash In The Land Of Glitz", New York Times, archived from the original on December 10, 2008
- Hoffman, Claire (May 30, 2006), "Temple of Talent Casts for a Tenant" (PDF), Los Angeles Times
- Daniel Miller (June 11, 2013). "Talent agency CAA mocked in ads by rival WME". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
... the subject of a derisive advertising blitz by rival William Morris Endeavor ... Dozens of ads ... featured the word "CAAN'T" in Creative Artists Agency's signature red-and-white color scheme ...
- Leon, Pierre-Henri (1 November 2001). "Talent agencies at the heart of the Hollywood system". InaGlobal. InaGlobal. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
- A History of CAA and Coke, by Hein, Kenneth, Benezra, Karen,Brandweek, 10644318, January 16, 2006, Vol. 47, Issue 3.