Sports and music representation powerhouse Wasserman has finalized its acquisition of Brillstein Entertainment Partners, the venerable Hollywood management and production company. Terms were not disclosed. Deadline exclusively revealed the acquisition talks back in February.
Wasserman Chairman & CEO, Casey Wasserman, and Brillstein Co-CEOs, Cynthia Pett and Jon Liebman made the announcement. It puts Wasserman, grandson of the iconic Hollywood representative and studio chief Lew Wasserman, directly into the film and TV representation and production game for the first time. It is the second strategic alignment for Wasserman, who took over the lucrative music touring business that was once the most profitable part of the Paradigm agency, at a time when the pandemic grounded live touring revenues.
It would be the latest move in management after 3Arts made a deal with Lionsgate, and Range Media Partners linked with Automatik.
Wasserman and Pett and Liebman believe their cultures will mesh in their compatible business and staffs. There will be no layoffs and the 30+ Brillstein managers and support staff will keep doing what they are doing, from their existing headquarters in Los Angeles and New York. The companies are already sorting a high profile deal, putting together a feature documentary to go along with the recent memoir deal they made with lit agency Inkwell for Brittney Griner, the basketball player who was imprisoned in Russia and who will tell that story in a book published by Alfred A. Knopf next year.
The addition of Brillstein adds a strong entertainment management and content vertical to Wasserman’s businesses, which market and serve a coterie of sports and entertainment figures, music artists, brands and properties. Brillstein’s leadership includes Pett, Liebman, Marc Gurvitz, Sandy Wernick and partners George Freeman, Missy Malkin, David McIlvain, Alex Murray, Andrea Pett and Tim Sarkes.
Brillstein’s client roster is vast and ranges from stars like Brad Pitt, Adam Sandler, Russell Crowe, Tiffany Haddish, Jason Sudeikis and Florence Pugh to directors like Scott Derrickson and broadcast talent like Bill Maher and Seth Meyers, to companies like Plan B, which Pitt runs with Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner.
The Brillstein list includes Alejandra Marquez Abella, Heather Anne Campbell, Nate Bargatze, Lindsey Beer, Nate Berkus, Maggie Betts, Susanne Bier, Nicholas Braun, Brittany Broski, Rachel Brosnahan, Tanner Buchanan, Kyle Chandler, Courteney Cox, Kaley Cuoco, Harris Dickinson, Jim Gaffigan, Zach Galifianakis, Megan Ganz, Nikki Glaser, Seth Gordon, Eve Hewson, Charlie Hunnam, Nick Lachey, Brennan Lee Mulligan, Rami Malek, Morbid, Catherine O’Hara, Jamie Lee, Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Pelphrey, Dan Perrault, James Ponsoldt, John Ridley, Joachim Rønning, Amber Ruffin, Martin Short, AustinShow, Radio Silence, David Spade, Cecily Strong, Aaron Taylor Johnson, Sam Taylor-Johnson, Tinx, Katy Tur, Andrew Kevin Walker, Kehinde Wiley, Noah Wyle, xQc and many more.
Wasserman said adding Brillstein’s clients and personnel makes both parties more viable for the continuing tectonic shifts in the business.
“It accomplishes two really important things,” Wasserman told Deadline. “It adds the management of entertainment talent to our company, which to now has only been sports and music talent, and doing it with what we think is the best management company in the business with incredible leadership in the company. Not just Jon, Cynthia and Marc, but a really deep team of people. That is strategically important and valuable and the second piece is the ability within that company and using it as a base to grow beyond that company a content/production business. It’s a skillset that we don’t particularly have in-house, not to the scale of what Brillstein does through BEP and it’s a skillset that is becoming more valuable to our clients globally on a day to day basis.
If you want to rep your talent in the best possible way, you need the best people in that space to provide all the meaningful and relevant opportunities to them to take advantage of.”
Usually, building and selling a management company and agency allows the principals to cash out. Liebman said for himself, Pett and their partners, growth was most important and while he spoke to numerous entities outside the business looking to get a foothold in Hollywood, having a buyer that understands the representation and production businesses was too good an opportunity to pass up.
“To me, in the complex environment we are operating in, film, television, digital, podcasting, gaming, endorsements, and the entire scope of what we do for our clients, it has gotten more complicated,” Liebman told Deadline. “To us, the days of personal talent management being a simpler job of taking care of your clients in a particular lane, is obsolete. What it really takes now to represents many clients that operate across different areas, is expertise, resources and knowhow in all those areas. For us, to remain Brillstein, to be independent and continue to run our business while having access to what the Wasserman company has, in terms of their knowhow in the worlds of brands and properties where they connect a lot of companies to talent, that’s an area we can tap into. They have a data insights and analytics group that analyzes audiences and markets, and this is an area we can tap into. They have sports and music, and that’s an area we can tap into for our production, both on the scripted and documentary and podcasts sides that we’re building out. The idea we can work with them to build entertainment around Brillstein, it’s something we couldn’t do without a partner like them.
“What I most like about it, they’re in the representation business,” Liebman said. “They get it. They represent artists in music, athletes, newscasters and broadcasters and for us, having that shared DNA and having a partner that understands what it means to serve the needs of talent, is the most critical piece of it. I was fortunate to have had the ability to talk with companies that were not in our business that wanted to be in the business of representation, and the most natural and organic thing for us as a company that has been doing this for over 45 years, is to actually be partnered with a company that understands what it is to represent people, and they’re not confused by that. They get the rollercoaster of that and the opportunities inside of that, and what it means to serve clients. Remember when the agencies were organized by motion picture lit, TV lit, talent, endorsements in all these silo-ed areas? When you’re a manager you don’t have the opportunity to say, I don’t do TV, I do movies. Or, I don’t get involved in endorsements because I don’t know that area. When you’re a manager, you have to serve the whole client. That’s gotten more complex. Let’s say a client wants to build a brand and are like, how do I organize that, how do I put it together? We need to have that capability. We have it but with Wasserman we’re going to be able to do that on steroids.”
Liebman also believes that the connotation of the names here is meaningful. On his and Pett’s side, that is the beloved manager Bernie Brillstein, whose talent clients pretty much launched Saturday Night Live. He would partner with Brad Grey, responsible for iconic series like The Sopranos.
“You think of Wasserman and Brillstein, and these are two iconic individuals who stood for something bold in representing talent as well as producing,” Liebman said.
Living under the mantle of his iconic grandfather Lew Wasserman, Casey Wasserman deliberately built his business in other areas, but perhaps a move into film and television representation and producing was inevitable.
“It wasn’t really about staying away,” Wasserman said. “We focused on building our business, what we thought was operationally and strategically the most important sports company, and we have continued to do that. After we bought the music business, and given the world we’re in where the lines between these businesses continue to blur, it became very clear to us that having a significant presence in the entertainment business would be strategically important. That’s step one, but step two and maybe more important was finding an entertainment business that would share our culture and values and are doing the quality of work and caliber of clients that Brillstein does, it would fit with what we do, how we do it, and who we do it for.”