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ICM Partners signs deal with Writers Guild

ICM Partners' deal with the WGA follows a similar pact between the guild and UTA in July.
(ICM Partners)

ICM Partners said Wednesday that it signed a deal with the Writers Guild of America, ending a standoff of more than a year.

Under the deal, the Century City agency agreed to end longstanding agency practices — including negotiating packaging fees for pulling talent together for projects — by June 30, 2022. The agreement also caps the agency’s ownership in a content production company at 20%. ICM does not currently have a stake in any production companies.

The guild maintains that such practices create conflicts of interest between the financial interests of agents and their obligation to represent their writer clients. Agencies have argued they could manage such conflicts.

In April 2019, thousands of writers fired their agents and the WGA instructed its members to not sign with any agencies that did not make individual deals with the union. The WGA negotiated franchise deals with more than 80 agencies and last month made an agreement with United Talent Agency — the first of the so-called big four agencies, a group that includes William Morris Endeavor and Creative Artists Agency as well as ICM Partners, to reach a pact with the union.

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Talent agencies have been hit hard by the pandemic as Hollywood productions and live events have been delayed or canceled, with several companies, including all of the big four, implementing cost-cutting initiatives such as layoffs and pay cuts.

Beverly Hills-based William Morris Endeavor said it is reducing its workforce by 20% through furloughs, layoffs and moving people to part-time employees.

In June, ICM Partners said it would lay off 40 of its support staff and raise the wages of its assistants to $20 an hour, up from $15 an hour. Company leaders said in a memo that the decision was part of an effort to make the company more efficient and to improve its assistants program.

“The pandemic has caused tremendous hardship and every facet of our industry is greatly challenged because of it,” said Kevin Crotty, ICM Partners’ co-president, of the WGA deal. “It was time to bridge this gap and get back to helping our clients tell stories that entertain, enlighten, connect and comfort audiences everywhere.”

The agency said that the deal would allow it to keep its ownership stake in its production company and that it had agreed to phase out packaging.

ICM Partners’ deal triggers a clause in UTA’s agreement whereby UTA would also end packaging in two years. UTA in its deal also agreed to limit its ownership in Civic Center Media to the current level of 20%.

“The more writers and agents can reunite, especially in these times, the better for our industry,” said a senior source at UTA who declined to be named. “The priority for all of us must be helping writers getting back to making great content.”

Meanwhile, CAA and WME remain in a dispute and legal battle with WGA.

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Last year the guild sued the agencies, alleging that the practice of collecting packaging fees was illegal. In April a judge dismissed many of the claims, including that the agencies took part in an illegal group boycott and unlawful racketeering.

The agencies also have sued the WGA, contending that the union organized an illegal group boycott that violated antitrust laws. A trial in that case could begin in March 2021.

CAA did not immediately return a request for comment. WME declined to comment.


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