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Coronavirus unemployment: WME cuts 20% of its workforce

Donald Trump and Ari Emanuel
President-elect Donald Trump, left, shakes hands with Ari Emanuel as he leaves the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse in 2016. Emanuel is Endeavor’s CEO.
(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

Talent agency William Morris Endeavor said Thursday it is making cost reductions that will affect 20% of its roughly 1,500 employees, part of ongoing cuts at the Beverly Hills-based parent company.

WME said most of the cuts will come from layoffs, but other employees affected could be furloughed or have their work hours reduced to part-time status due to fallout from COVID-19. The pandemic has shelved many Hollywood productions and live events, and that has severely eroded the income stream for WME and other talent agencies.

“While we are making these difficult decisions now to safeguard our business, we believe in the resilience of our team and our industry,” WME said in a statement.

WME’s cost-cutting efforts affect agents, executives and assistants, with the music department most heavily hit.

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Among the agents leaving WME is partner Duncan Millership, whose clients have included Helena Bonham Carter, Hugh Jackman and Tom Hollander, sources said. He has joined Anonymous Content as a manager, Deadline reported.

The announcement is part of a larger initiative at WME’s parent company, Endeavor, to reduce its expenses. Endeavor said one-third of its staff would be affected by layoffs, furloughs or reduced work hours.

Endeavor Group Holdings, owner of WME and UFC, has officially withdrawn its intention to go public.

The cuts are a blow to Endeavor, which had planned to launch an IPO last year. Before the coronavirus crisis hit, Endeavor had a heavy debt load after making a string of acquisitions, including buying UFC. The company had $4.6 billion in debt as of September, according to a regulatory filing.

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Last month, S&P Global downgraded Endeavor to a CCC+ credit rating from a B and said the outlook for the company is negative.

“Endeavor entered 2020 with a highly leveraged capital structure, therefore the anticipated significant drop in revenue in 2020 could potentially result in an unsustainable capital structure,” the S&P Global report said.

Other talent agencies including Creative Artists Agency and United Talent Agency have reduced the salaries of their staffs. UTA also recently announced some of its staff will be furloughed.


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