Entertainment

Layoffs hit ICM Partners as WGA fight drags on


ICM Partners has laid off about half a dozen agents as the Hollywood talent agency and its rivals are grappling with a months-long standoff with the Writers Guild of America.

The job cuts involved employees across multiple departments and occurred in recent weeks before ICM Partners’ announcement Monday that it has accepted its first private equity investment since 2012, said a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to comment.

Crestview Partners will invest about $150 million in exchange for a minority ownership stake that is about one-third of Los Angeles-based ICM Partners, sources said. ICM expects to use the proceeds from Crestview Partners to acquire agencies in Europe.

An ICM spokesman confirmed the agency had a “handful” of layoffs, but said they were normal for this time of year. The job cuts represent a small fraction of the company’s 600 employees in L.A., New York, Washington, D.C., and London.

The job cuts were mostly due to attrition and reflect a realignment of the company’s business, including how many writers it might represent in the future and where its future growth lies, said a person familiar with the agency’s thinking who was not authorized to comment. The person said the agency was coming off a record year in revenue.

Nonetheless, ICM and other agencies are confronting uncertainty over how long it will take to resolve its dispute with the Writers Guild of America over industry practices.

The union in April instructed members to “fire” agents who did not agree to a code of conduct that bars them from investing in affiliated production entities and packaging of films and TV shows, which the union contends creates conflicts of interest for agents. Agencies maintain they can manage conflicts, and the two sides are locked in a costly legal dispute over the matter.

Meanwhile, more than 80 small and mid-tier agencies have accepted the WGA’s franchise agreement, but none of the largest has signed on.

Although agencies say they continue to package deals without writers, insiders say the protracted dispute has created more financial pressure on some of the biggest agencies to offset the loss of business from writer clients.

The investment from New York-based Crestview is notable because ICM has long touted its lack of outside funds as a differentiating factor over rivals that rely heavily on private equity investment.

ICM has said it has no intention of becoming a production company.

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