The fiscal year ends on Friday, which means it’ll be bonus season at the Hollywood talent agencies. Get excited! CAA typically goes first among the majors, in October or early November, doling out the chum of the year to its sharks. The CAA leaders—Bryan Lourd, Richard Lovett, and Kevin Huvane—have been telling people it’s been a record year, though I’ve never met an agent who was totally satisfied with their bonus. And this year there’s an added wrinkle: All those ICM Partners people that came over in the acquisition—many of them on one-year contracts that replaced a big chunk of their ICM salaries with discretionary bonuses—are about to find out how much their new business daddies love them.
CAA’s $750 million acquisition of ICM only closed in June, thanks to that lengthy government review, so most of the bonus calculations for those agents will be off pre-CAA deals. But remember, it’s discretionary, taking into account not just the value of an agent’s book of business but their perceived value to the company. And it’s pretty clear from my check-in chats with about 20 people at CAA, as well as WME and the other agencies over the past couple weeks, that in this time of crazy change throughout the representation industry, those ICM hires are extra-nervous. They should be.
If CAA wants to eventually go public with bigger margins, it needs to filter these ICM people, keep the clients who matter, and get rid of the agents who don’t. At ICM, many agents have clients who straddle that threshold of mattering, and many were overpaid because the agency was always so concerned about losing people. Now, some of those same agents are making less in salary and are essentially on a one-year audition for their own jobs. Who will survive? With their bonuses (or lack thereof), those agents are about to get a big data point. (CAA declined to comment, and the usual disclosures here: CAA’s majority owner is TPG, which is an investor in Puck; WME represents Puck.)