Shortly after 9 a.m., Hollywood time, I received a message via Signal: “CAA is buying ICM,” the source said. It’s the kind of deal, between two rival agencies, that would have sounded utterly implausible a decade ago but makes total sense now. A second source who texted, about 10 minutes later, explained why: “ICM had to give up. Was too small now.” Scale, after all, is the name of the game in Hollywood these days, and that goes for agencies, as well. “The bigger get bigger. The little can’t survive alone,” a veteran Hollywood executive texted after the deal was formally announced.
In recent weeks, Creative Artists Agency’s Bryan Lourd, Kevin Huvane, and Richard Lovett decided it was time to add muscle in the representation business; ICM’s Chris Silbermann got the exit he’s long been seeking (for an undisclosed price) and now, pending regulatory approval, Hollywood’s Big 4 will become Hollywood’s Big 3: WME, CAA, and UTA. The official line from CAA leadership is all about cooperation: “The strategic combination… bolsters our collective resources, expertise, and relationships to deliver even more opportunities for our world-class clients to build their careers and their brands across multiple disciplines and platforms in an evolving marketplace,” Lourd & Co. said in a statement.
But industry insiders suggest the future will be less rosy for some. “There will be a lot of people without jobs and clients that CAA won’t want to rep,” one agency source said. “They basically bought an incredible book business”—ICM boasts a strong literary arm—“and Shonda Rhimes. Maybe Sam Jackson and Regina King. And there are some pieces of their European sports business that might be real.” (Stellar Group, which IMC acquired last year, represents a number of soccer stars.)
What’s perhaps most notable about CAA’s move is that it is doubling down on talent representation at a time when agencies are increasingly diversifying their businesses. Longtime rival Endeavor, home to the WME agency and financed by private equity giant Silver Lake, went public earlier this year after acquiring sports behemoth IMG, the UFC mixed martial arts league, Professional Bull Riders, and other sports and entertainment businesses.
CAA, majority owned by TPG, another private equity player, has been seeking its own acquisitions, and has also reportedly considered an attempt to take itself public. With ICM in the fold, CAA is now further defining itself as a representation company, as Endeavor increasingly moves away from that identity. (TPG is also an investor in Puck.)
Logistically, at least, this should be rather easy: The two companies are physically across the street from one other in Century City, nearby the Fox studio lot. The combined company will be called CAA, per sources familiar, and CAA people will run the departments. Silbermann will join the shareholder board, and the rest of ICM will get a nice payday.
With additional reporting from Matthew Belloni.