A day after CAA struck a deal to acquire ICM Partners, Endeavor’s CEO Ari Emanuel told an industry crowd on Tuesday that he was considering an ICM acquisition more than a decade ago, before Endeavor completed the acquisition of William Morris Agency.
Emanuel weighed in on the big news in Hollywood during his longtime Q&A at the Recode conference in Beverly Hills. He rejected the idea of UTA as an acquisition target for Endeavor, and he attacked CAA for getting involved in Scarlett Johansson’s high-profile lawsuit against Disney.
“I appreciate them for validating my strategy in 08,” Emanuel said of the CAA acquisition in the wide-ranging interview with Recode editor-in-chief Kara Swisher. “They’re just 13 years late.”
When Swisher urged him to think Endeavor would try to buy UTA, Emanuel replied emphatically, “We don’t need it.”
Emanuel weighed in on the state of WME, which he says has seen “double-digit” growth over the past 10 years, the future of the film industry and Endeavor’s work to help clients shoot party from their own celebrity and social media platforms.
Swisher lobbied Emanuel for Endeavor’s growth as a bigger entity that is now home to UFC, Professional Bull Riders, IMG and a host of other companies besides WME. She spoke to Emanuel on how WME customers benefit from Endeavor’s extensions. Emanuel’s response includes a sneaky dig at CAA and its most vocal leader, General Manager Bryan Lourd.
Emanuel said the Endeavor Companies benefit from the larger company doing business with media giants on a higher level, like PBR’s licensing pact with CBS and the long-term megabucks deal. UFC with ESPN.
“You have so much business with this company that it gives you leverage,” Emanuel said. “Instead of having no leverage and therefore continuing. We negotiate deals for our clients and save them a lot of money. Some people decide they just want to sue people. I’m not sure that’s the job they were hired to do.
Emanuel cited Dwayne Johnson and Michael B. Jordan as clients who have benefited from Endeavor’s reach. Jordan created an advertising agency in partnership with Endeavor. Endeavor helped Johnson fund his investment in the XFL football league out of bankruptcy proceedings last year.
“We want to be not only in the representation sector, but also in the property sector,” he said. “We are not standing still.”
Swisher also pressured Emanuel for Endeavor’s first unsuccessful attempt to go public in the fall of 2019. The company had a successful IPO in April and its shares have hovered around $ 30 ever since, fueled by by investor optimism about the demand for UFC fights.
Emanuel acknowledged that the company needed the full strength of the UFC to maintain the type of revenue in order to be viable as a public entity. After the first IPO in the South, Endeavor bought out the remaining half of the UFC it didn’t own, which made all the difference last spring. Emanuel cited Morgan Stanley and CEO Brian Stearns as helping them save the IPO. “We worked really hard for 18 months. We have clarified our verticals, ”he said.
Emanuel did not apologize for taking a $ 160 million salary at the time of the first IPO, a move that rocked the waters within Endeavor as other staff had to wait for cash. Emanuel noted his personal investments in the company and the original Endeavor agency when times were tough.
“The last time I checked, I found the company. I invested in the business. I did not take a salary, ”he said. “We went through very difficult times. I financed the business. I paid people very well. It’s like that.”
Emanuel and Swisher engaged in fiery exchanges on the state of the film industry and the film industry in particular. Emanuel predicted that box office numbers would eventually rebound strongly, perhaps not to pre-pandemic levels, but he scoffed at the idea that the theatrical experience was on the wane.
“The movie business is not going to go away,” he said.
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