I know, nobody feels an ounce of sympathy for Hollywood agents. To many, they’re parasitic mercenaries who will lie and obfuscate to secure their clients a few more peanut M&Ms in their trailers. That stereotype is not totally true, of course, and to the extent that it is, so what? Agents extract value in a system designed by studios and streamers to hide it, even if most executives consider them a 10 percent tax on talent.
So it’s hard not to feel a little bad for these ICM Partners agents who are getting chewed up in its $750 million acquisition by CAA, its larger rival, that was finally approved last week by the Department of Justice. Takeovers are difficult, both culturally and logistically, so nobody expected these cutthroat CAA and ICM agents to form a drum circle or sing an Armani-clad version of We Are the World at the corner of Constellation Boulevard and Avenue of the Stars. Still, due either to naivete or an inflated sense of their own value, few on the ICM side expected the ruthlessness with which this “merger” is being carried out. It’s getting nasty.
In addition to the usual redundancies and low-hanging layoffs, dozens of profitable agents are now gone, their emails abruptly shut off last Wednesday. Yet some of them still haven’t been allowed to finalize their separation agreements and go to another company, putting them in a weird limbo. According to sources, CAA has even been calling the clients of at least a few of those agents, just to let them know about the opportunities available to extraordinary talents such as themselves, if they want to drop their terminated agent—who, by the way, doesn’t even have a functioning email address anymore.