By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Sure, the Morris office had always been dysfunctional. But this hate-spewing exposed a huge schism between who was inside CEO Wiatt’s, COO Irv Weintraub’s and president Dave Wirtschafter’s cliques, and who wasn’t, based on cronyism and not merit. WMA was in chaos.
I suggested that Morris management take a long, hard look at itself. WMA did. Wirtschafter organized several staff meetings at which personnel were encouraged to air their grievances. The level of animosity was stunning, and WMA realized Wiatt had failed. A plan was conceived to make the TV and movie department operate more like the successfully led music department.
But that was back-burnered when Ari Emanuel and Jim Wiatt began their merger talk. Endeavor didn’t realize the extent of WMA’s internal strife until Ari, et al., saw that Wiatt was moving to save the jobs of his clique members to give him a power base in the new company. Wiatt gave Aaron Kaplan, the worldwide head of scripted television, a fat $11 million, five-year contract even though his department was tanking. And Wiatt was now pushing for Kaplan to stay with WME. The Endeavor leaders were appalled.
Then, on May 18, the feds agreed not to prevent the merger. That day, 100 WMA people, or 15 percent of the work force, were laid off. Endeavor’s layoffs would ultimately total only a half-dozen. And, over the past month, Endeavor went to several agents and told them they “likely” wouldn’t survive. That allowed them to start quietly looking for jobs. But that luxury of time wasn’t afforded the WMA agents.
I learned that, adding insult to injury, Wiatt had pitbull Hollywood litigator Patty Glaser send “cease-and-desist” letters to rival agencies demanding that they stop trying to hire any Morris tenpercenters. Sure, WMA didn’t want to lose agents it had decided to keep in the merger. But it also hampered the other agents from finding jobs early. (One rival who received Glaser’s letter called it “despicable” and “inhumane.”)
By May 22, Wiatt was hated within Morris. That’s also the day I reported his ouster. It’s ironic that he came to WMA for the money, and now will exit with a hefty payout. But it’s a high and humiliating price he’s paying for being the wrong guy to lead WME.
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