By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Ben Stiller and Apatow are considered two of the hottest hyphenate talents within the Industry as writers, producers, directors and, in Ben’s case, actor. They make movies, they get movies made and they make money along the way. Stevens’ move with his two colleagues immediately strengthens Endeavor’s status as the No. 2 motion-picture agency with a lot of really strong agents and hot clients. But it also weakens by perception UTA’s already struggling Talent Department on the heels of recent losses like actors Vince Vaughn, Kate Bosworth, Jim Carrey and Will Ferrell not so long ago.
Expectedly, Stiller immediately decided to follow his agent Stevens to Endeavor, and issued the following statement: “I think Nick Stevens is a unique entity in this business: an agent with integrity, a point of view, and most of all, humanity. He’s Jerry Maguire at the end of the movie. I would be with him if he was working out of the Sunglass Hut at the Beverly Center.”
Most of the other clients will leave as well, prompting United Talent to hold urgent strategy meetings all weekend.
By all accounts, this was not an easy decision for Nick. He’s leaving the agency he co-owns with Jim Berkus, Peter Benedek, Jeremy Zimmer and Jay Sures, and where he’d topped the Talent Department since 1995, when he was a 30-year-old wunderkind. But Stevens and UTA’s other directors had not been seeing eye to eye for some time over management issues. Simply put, it was a clash of work ethics and corporate cultures: impeccable suits versus Stevens’ T-shirts, jeans and sneakers, the 24/7 office workdays versus Stevens on his cell phone from wherever he damn pleased.
So UTA’s directors had already started talking to Nick about removing him from the board while at the same time making the case for him to stay at the agency. But Stevens had long professed his unhappiness with the direction in which the board had taken the agency, including land mines of lawsuits and arbitrations and settlements that cost UTA millions of dollars over the years.
Stevens avoided the minutiae of daily ops and preferred to focus on his clients, searching for and nurturing new talent and putting projects together. He didn’t visit sets, lunch at the Grill, or do any of the usual industry glad-handing. Instead, under his guidance, UTA became infamous for creating a “wheel of comedy” whereby a raft of successful, smart-dumb comedies were and still are being written by the agency’s clients, produced by the agency’s clients, directed by the agency’s clients and starred in by the agency’s clients, many of whom also share the same managers.
Nevertheless, for all the bad blood, several of Nick’s senior partners appealed to him to stay. As for Endeavor, its partners saw a rare opportunity to help their agency and hurt a competitor all in one fell swoop. (UTA also recently lost partner Marc Korman and his TV show-runner clients to Endeavor.) Ari Emanuel had been on vacation when he read about the UTA ruckus on my Web site. So he offered Stevens a clean slate. I understand that Stevens’ deal completely frees him from all management responsibilities so he can concentrate on connecting dots between Endeavor clients and projects.