William Morris Endeavor Entertainment LLC, also known as William Morris Endeavor, WME or WME-IMG, is an American talent agency with offices in Beverly Hills, California, United States. The company was founded in April 2009, after the merger of the William Morris Agency and the Endeavor Agency. WME represents artists across all media platforms, specifically movies, television, music, theatre, digital and publishing. It also represents the NFL and NHL. WME also owns the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Miss Universe. The company is run by Co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell.
As the entertainment industry evolved, so did WMA, which soon expanded into television, film, literature and music representation.
The Endeavor Talent Agency launched in 1995, nearly 100 years after WMA, grew rapidly to include clients from every facet of the entertainment industry. By 2009, Endeavor was one of the fastest-growing Hollywood talent agencies, with The New York Times singling out its reputation for "quick thinking, ferocity and barely bridled ambition."
On April 27, 2009, WMA and the Endeavor Talent Agency announced that they were forming William Morris Endeavor, or WME. Endeavor executives Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell were widely seen as the architects of the merger and quickly became the Co-CEOs of WME.
In 2011, Emanuel was quoted in a Financial Times profile about the company, saying "We built a culture where people are rewarded for taking risks." Emanuel and Whitesell have implemented several leadership strategies to boost the productivity of their agents, most notably, the "Farmhouse" training program.
Following the merger, WME moved its headquarters into the offices of Endeavor. The company now takes up several floors at 9601 Wilshire Boulevard in the heart of Beverly Hills. Additionally, WME has offices in New York, London, Miami, and Nashville.
Since the merger, WME has grown to include several subsidiary companies and expanded divisions. Fortune named Co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell to their 2010 "Businessperson of the Year" list, acknowledging their corporate growth strategies. Emanuel had previously been recognized as a 21st-century "super agent" by both The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian, as well as an Advertising Age "Influencer."
Shortly after the merger, WME helped launch the investment group Raine, which aligned the company with properties like Vice Media and Zumba Fitness. In 2010, WME partnered with RED Interactive, a digital advertising agency. Two years later, they formed an alliance with the social media management firm TheAudience, partnering with digital entrepreneur Sean Parker and executing social campaigns for properties like the Seth MacFarlane motion picture Ted and the Coachella Music Festival. 2013 brought a strategic partnership between WME and creative music agency Jingle Punks, which creates, publishes and licenses music. WME is also an investor in the e-commerce platform [OpenSky], which was named one of America's "Most Promising Companies" by Forbes. In 2013, Whitesell and Emanuel were profiled in Fast Company, highlighting the company's digital growth.
In July 2013, WME acquired a minority stake in the creative agency Droga5. The partnership combines the companies’ advertising and entertainment resources. Founded by David Droga, Droga5 was named Adweek’s 2012 Agency of the Year and oversees accounts for Coca-Cola, Motorola and Spotify.
Describing the partnership, The New York Times wrote, “As consumers increasingly ignore traditional advertising and are bombarded with a constant stream of content, both online and offline, advertisers have been forced to find more compelling ways to get their attention. WME could help provide the answer given its substantial reach in television, publishing, music, film and theater."
On January 21, 2015, it was announced that WME had acquired Global eSports Management (GEM), an international agency representing various esports and professional video game players and personalities.
On September 14, 2015, WME acquired from Donald Trump the Miss Universe Organization, which produces the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA beauty pageants and related content. The organization sells television rights to the pageants in other countries. Financial details were not disclosed. On September 23 it was announced that WME/IMG would be partnering with Turner Broadcasting to create a televised esports league, the ELeague.
On July 9, 2016, the Ultimate Fighting Championship was sold from Zuffa, LLC to a group led by WME-IMG, its owner Silver Lake Partners, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and MSD Capital, for $4.2 billion, the largest-ever acquisition in the sports industry..
On August 22, 2016, WME acquired the literary agency Rabineau Wachter Sanford & Gillett (RWSG); its co-founders, Sylvie Rabineau and Jill Holwager Gillett, head a division of WME involved in the coordination of screen adaptations of literature.
On May 2, 2012, WME and Silver Lake, a technology-focused private equity firm based in Silicon Valley, signed an agreement for Silver Lake to acquire a 31% minority stake in the agency. A new executive committee, consisting of Co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell and Silver Lake Partners Managing Director Egon Durban, leads the company's growth strategy and investment activities. The Silver Lake deal drew the attention of several leading financial publications, including Forbes, Financial Times, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Silver Lake increased their stake in WME to 51% following the acquisition of IMG Worldwide.
WME's agents specialize in a broad variety of entertainment sectors. Company divisions include Talent, Motion Pictures, Scripted Television, Non-Scripted Television, Music, Literary, Theatre, Commercials, Speakers, and Branded Lifestyle.
WME's motion picture clients represent a diverse mix of filmmakers, actors, writers and directors.
WME represents artists from the scripted and non-scripted television space.
WME's Literary Department is co-headed by Suzanne Gluck, Eric Simonoff, and WME board member Jennifer Rudolph Walsh. In 2013, client Sheryl Sandberg released her debut book, Lean In, which topped multiple bestseller lists and sold 140,000 copies its first week of publication. The company's Literary Department also helps authors branch out into mediums like television and film, negotiating deals for book-to-screen adaptations. WME's UK Literary Department is headed by Simon Trewin.
WME's Theatre Department represents actors, directors, writers and choreographers. They also bring motion picture and television talent to the stage. Additionally, the department transitions theatre clients into new mediums, helping to break out TV and film talent and expand productions into new formats.
WME's Speakers Division represents a selection of speakers from a wide variety of fields, including national and global affairs, media relations, business and economics, health and science, humor, and sports and motivation. The Lectures Department also handles speaking opportunities for clients across all WME divisions.
WME's Commercials Division helps partner clients with notable brands like AT&T, Apple, Dior, Samsung, Gucci, Mercedes, Pepsi and Absolut Vodka. It covers commercials, animation, non-performing public appearances, direct marketing, home shopping and tour sponsorships. The department is also involved in client voiceover opportunities for commercials, animation and video games.
In 2007, WME Board Member Jon Rosen launched the agency's Branded Lifestyle Group, which aims to build multiplatform businesses for personalities and brands in all areas of lifestyle entertainment. Clients are able to successfully utilize cross multiple mediums, including television, fashion, literature and consumer products.
WME Digital represents talent and properties in the digital space. WME Digital also leads the agency's start-up investing practice.
In 2009, the partners of William Morris Endeavor formed the WME Foundation, which promotes arts and education to disadvantaged children. Clients whose charities have benefitted from the Foundation's services include Charlize Theron, Hank Azaria, Usher, and Alicia Keys. In 2011, the company created Camp Summer Eagle and Camp Summer Lion, which provide donations and activities for schoolchildren in Compton, California and New York City.
Dubbed a "brain spa" by The Wall Street Journal, WME has hosted an annual retreat for its agents.
On November 15, 2017, actor Terry Crews stated on Good Morning America that Adam Venit, head of WME's motion picture department, had squeezed Crews' genitals with his hand at an industry party in February 2016. WME responded they had suspended Venit following an internal investigation, on November 27, 2017 it was announced Adam Venit would return to work after a month's unpaid leave. On December 4, 2017 lawyers acting on behalf of Terry Crews filed suit against WME and Adam Venit stating “It is now time to hold Venit accountable for his sexual predatory behavior and to hold WME accountable for its conduct in condoning, ratifying, and encouraging Venit’s sexual predatory behavior,”.
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