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UTA lays off 50, reinstates full pay to others as COVID-19 pandemic takes a toll

United Talent Agency Chief Executive Jeremy Zimmer
United Talent Agency Chief Executive Jeremy Zimmer at the company’s Beverly Hills office.
(United Talent Agency)

United Talent Agency said Wednesday it would reinstate full pay to workers who had their incomes reduced in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and cut about about 50 of its staffers.

The Beverly Hills agency said it was among the first in the industry to reinstate full pay for its employees, with salaries set to be made whole by mid-September, Chief Executive Jeremy Zimmer said in an email to staff Wednesday.

In March, UTA cut salaries of its staff after the health crisis forced the industry to halt live events and productions, a major blow to agencies that had already been squeezed by a dispute with the Writers Guild of America over packaging fees and other practices.

Now, UTA said it is exploring pay increases for hourly employees, including its assistants, and extending half-day “Summer Fridays” beyond Labor Day through Sept. 25.

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Talent agencies are under growing pressure to raise capital to finance growth at time of rapid changes in the media industry. The rise of streaming and expected decline of TV packaging, combined with the effects of a longstanding boycott by Writers Guild of America, have put the squeeze on talent agencies, some of which have laid off workers.

Century City-based Creative Artists Agency also implemented salary cuts. Endeavor announced one-third of its staff will have their positions eliminated, be furloughed or see their hours reduced. However unlike those two firms, UTA has reached an agreement with the WGA, as has ICM.

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.

“Our industry is showing increasing signs of recovery and stability. Parts of our business have remained steady despite the impact of COVID-19 and, in some areas, we’ve performed stronger than expected,” Zimmer said in the internal memo viewed by The Times. However, “the need remains to take a hard and honest look at the size and makeup of UTA — and make decisions that reflect what our business requires not just short term but for the foreseeable future.”

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The layoffs affected a mix of staff across different divisions and those who had been furloughed this year, as well as some current employees. Zimmer promised “generous” severance packages.

In May, UTA furloughed a “significant number” of its 1,200 employees, many of whom were assistants. Zimmer said in his memo he could not yet commit to reinstating furloughed employees.


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