hollywood_agency_wars_compLast week saw a massive exodus, insiders call it a betrayal, of almost the entire comedy department from CAA to UTA.  For those not following the situation closely, it began with 5 senior comedy agents suddenly mailing in resignation letters to the managing parters at CAA saying they were leaving to a rival agency.  No face to face, no handshake, no goodbye – a very sudden and certain goodbye.  But what began as 5 agents defecting turned into nearly an entire deparment – it was like someone removing an entire organ from someone’s body.  This was first reported by Deadline, and what followed were a barrage of nasty comments aimed at CAA, long considered the dominant talent agency in the world.  As they say, it’s lonely at the top.  Many of those comments felt distinctly personal, like they were hurled by ex-employees, ex-clients, or people who couldn’t get in the door.  Historically, agents play musical chairs, angling and leveraging for a better payday elsewhere.  Look up the history of any big agency or individual agent, and you’ll see they started at a competitor, learned and built their rolodexes, then struck out to what they felt were greener pastures. It’s the Hollywood cycle of life.  Michael Ovitz, Ron Meyer, and Mike Rosenfeld bolted from then William Morris Agency to start CAA in 1975.  20 years later, Ari Emanuel, Rick Rosen, Tom Strickler, and David Greenblatt bolted from ICM to start Endeavor in 1995.  But this switch seems different, as if this spectacle were planned for many months, maybe years, for maximum impact on perception of each brand respectively.  Of course money is at the very heart of it, but the attack has a sense of vengeance to it, as if UTA held a grudge against CAA since 2005 when CAA recruited the very agents UTA just got back, namely comedy powerhouse agents Jason Heyman and Martin Lesak.  This was a major chess move with the timing of it almost impeccable. “Get Hard” is freshly out and making bundles of money, starring once CAA client Will Ferrell and UTA’s prized comedy talent Kevin Hart, as if Kevin not only advised Will to survive in prison, but to come join his agency; the news broke on the eve of April Fools Day where many press outlets would have to make a play on that; and again an entire department just gets up and leaves.  Journalists want to write off CAA like it’s the end – it’s far from it.  As a client of CAA, I’ve only personally experienced positive things with the agents I work with, they’ve been hard working and supportive, and as a result we’ve gotten some great wins on the board with a very bright and big future ahead.  The press loves to speculate that there are some fatal flaws, harkening back to CAA’s long forgotten nickname “The Death Star”.  But in my opinion, the agency’s team-oriented culture is still the smartest in town, designed to service the client with a variety of agents in different departments.  This especially works for myself and Calico, who operate and have interests and talents across a variety of platforms and disciplines. I’m not buying into the negative hype, plus I’m just a loyal dude by nature. CAA will live, UTA is undoubtedly stronger, WME is relishing in this moment, ICM just cherry picked a couple senior agents from UTA.  And the smaller boutique agencies better guard their grill.  This new agency war is only getting started and promises to get deeper.