Sep 18, 2023 - Economy

Talent agency known for repping athletes gains a deeper Hollywood foothold

Casey Wasserman. Photo: Robert Ascroft

Wasserman, a talent agency best known for its representation of athletes, has finalized a deal to acquire Brillstein Entertainment Partners, a prominent Hollywood management and production firm, its CEO tells Axios.

Why it matters: The deal gives Wasserman a much deeper foothold into Hollywood and will allow it to better service its clients as they pursue deals related to content creation.

Details: Brillstein's leadership team will continue to lead the firm under its new ownership. All staff will move over with the acquisition. The firm will retain its name and branding.

  • Brillstein's client roster includes dozens of stars, such as Brad Pitt, Russell Crowe, Florence Pugh, Seth Meyers, Katy Tur and many others. Brillstein also represents a slew of digital creators, podcasters, gamers and social personalities.
  • The firm has a standalone TV production business, Brillstein Creative Partners, which currently has a first-look deal with Paramount and projects with multiple streamers.
  • Wasserman declined to disclose the financial details of the agreement.

State of play: The Hollywood agency space has been one of the biggest M&A hotbeds in media over the past year, with recent deals including:

  • French billionaire François-Henri Pinault is buying CAA in a deal that values the agency giant at $7 billion. Meanwhile, WME's parent Endeavor just closed its acquisition of WWE.
  • Agency for the Performing Arts (APA) merged with Artist Group International.
  • UTA acquired New York-based executive search firm James & Co., which focuses on the media, tech and sports space.
  • Range Media Partners merged with "La La Land" producer Automatik.
  • WME bought Washington, D.C.-based literary agency Ross Yoon.
  • Gersh sold a 45% stake to private equity firm Crestview Partners.

Catch up quick: Wasserman was founded in 1998 and has primarily represented athletes.

  • In 2021, Wasserman acquired Paradigm Talent Agency's live music business. Last year, the company took an investment from Providence Equity Partners to spearhead more acquisitions.

Between the lines: The deal is also personal. In an interview, Wasserman founder and CEO Casey Wasserman said he's known Brillstein founder Bernie Brillstein his entire life. He and Bernie's son played Little League together.

  • Casey is the grandson of Hollywood legend Lew Wasserman.

The bottom line: "The world that our clients operate in has grown dramatically. If we truly aspire to be the most relevant and most fundamentally important for our clients, we have to be able to serve them with best-in-class people," he says.

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