Endeavor Group Holdings, the owner of the Hollywood talent agency WME and sports league UFC, is shaking up its representation business in the wake of its failed stock offering by investing in Lloyd Braun’s Whalerock Industries.
Braun, whose company made its name in 2015 by launching a suite of apps with the Kardashians, will take over as president of Endeavor’s representation and management business, the Beverly Hills-based company said Thursday in a statement.
The executive, who ran ABC when the network produced shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Lost,” will oversee the flagship entertainment agency as well as fashion management companies IMG Models and the Wall Group, in addition to IMG’s global licensing businesses.
The move marks a significant change in Endeavor’s management operations. About half a dozen executives who previously reported to Endeavor President Mark Shapiro, including WME President Ari Greenburg, will now report to Braun.
The veteran TV executive is being tapped to help Endeavor better serve its clients across multiple businesses, including podcasts and books, live events and television and licensing, said a person close to the company who was not authorized to comment.
Endeavor is acquiring about half of Braun’s West Hollywood-based company with the option to buy out the rest over three years, the source said. Financial terms were not disclosed.
“In this new role, Lloyd will be charged with harnessing our collective resources to elevate our offerings for clients across entertainment, sports and fashion,” said Shapiro.
The changeup at Endeavor’s core business comes at a challenging time for talent agencies. Endeavor, backed in part by private equity group Silver Lake, has sprawled into different and varied businesses — bull riding, as well as controversially investing in the film and TV projects it packaged for writers and actors.
This Hollywood financing trend has triggered a protracted feud with the Writers Guild of America, prompting writers to “fire” their agents in protest over industry practices. The fight was listed as a risk to Endeavor’s IPO. Some speculated that Braun, a skilled lawyer by training, could help jump-start negotiations with writers.
Endeavor was forced to cancel plans for a $600-million listing in September, a decision driven in part by market turbulence that also felled the IPOs of WeWork and Peloton Interactive Inc. Endeavor left open the possibility of reviving its IPO despite investor skepticism. The IPO would have funded a repayment of some of its $4.6-billion debt and future acquisitions.
The decision was a rare setback for the company’s brash chief executive, Ari Emanuel, who has been attempting to transform his company into a global entertainment juggernaut. The company merged with the legendary William Morris Agency in 2009 and acquired sports and fashion representation leader IMG Worldwide Holdings five years later for about $2.4 billion. Endeavor acquired mixed martial arts league Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2016 for $4 billion.
In its latest acquisition, Endeavor announced Friday it had acquired the Harry Walker Agency, the speaking agency of former U.S. presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Emanuel is a golfing partner and friend of Braun’s. The executive launched Whalerock in 2007 with former Paramount Pictures President Gail Berman, but that partnership ended in 2014.
The West Hollywood business created or operated more than 20 media brands with companies, networks or celebrities, including apps for the Kardashians, for which fans paid $2.99 a month to find out details such as Khloe Kardashian’s workout routines or Kourtney Kardashian’s family recipes. But the company has struggled in recent years as celebrities turn to Instagram and other sites to push their brands.
Before founding Whalerock, Braun was tapped in 2004 to run Yahoo’s Santa Monica-based media and entertainment group with a mandate to turn Yahoo into a full-fledged digital entertainment company. But within a year and a half, Yahoo had dramatically downsized its aspirations to be a major content creator. The former president of management firm Brillstein-Grey Entertainment resigned as part of a management shake-up in 2006.
Braun was previously chairman of ABC Entertainment, where he was instrumental in the success of “Lost,” which, along with “Desperate Housewives,” helped pull ABC out of a ratings slump.
Comedy fans might be more familiar with the name as that of a recurring character on “Seinfeld” who dated Elaine Benes and was a nemesis to George Costanza, whose mother would berate him with the refrain, “Why can’t you be more like Lloyd Braun?”
Times staff writers Meg James, Stacy Perman and Wendy Lee contributed to this report.