Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell Unleashed: WME-IMG’s Strategy, IPO Plans, China and the Doubters

 

BY MATTHEW BELLONI - read the full story here

 

 

Fresh from a $5.5 billion valuation and a brash buying spree, the agency's co-CEOs open up on rival CAA (they're "freaking out"), Netflix ("a monopoly"?) Ben Affleck's future as Batman, Trump vs. Hillary, and critics of their $2.4 billion bet on sports and fashion: "They're all f—ing scared of their own goddamn shadow."

 

It’s lunchtime on Feb. 29, the Monday after the Oscars, yet the ground-floor restaurant in the Beverly Hills headquarters of William Morris Endeavor has been completely cleared out. Well, almost. Sliding into a booth at Jack & Ben’s, the eatery named for their fathers, are co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell. They have closed the place to sit with The Hollywood Reporter for their first extensive interview since WME’s brash $2.4 billion cash purchase of the sports and fashion powerhouse IMG was completed in May 2014.

Both men were up late, especially Whitesell, who joined longtime clients Ben Affleck and Matt Damon at Guy Oseary’s after-after-afterparty until well past 4 a.m. But their energy and enthusiasm still are apparent, as are the roles they immediately fall into — Emanuel the unfiltered streetfighter agent who, with four colleagues, famously packed up his ICM office in the middle of the night 21 years ago and founded Endeavor; Whitesell his complementary opposite, a gentlemanly Iowan who stepped into the co-CEO role when Endeavor engineered a takeover of the venerable William Morris Agency in 2009. As the Hollywood talent shops WME, Creative Artists Agency and, to a lesser extent, United Talent Agency, have raced to diversify and grow in recent years, WME’s massive (and massively leveraged) bet on IMG by far is the industry’s most watched play. If Emanuel and Whitesell succeed — and new financial data suggest they’re on the right track — they will have reinvented a 10 percent commission business into a global, pan-disciplinary entertainment superpower that, importantly, owns a significant chunk of content as well as represents its creators.

Read the full story here