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CAA to sell majority stake in production firm to South Korea’s JTBC Studios Co.

A young woman looks out a window
Hailee Steinfeld is in “Dickinson,” one of the series that production company Wiip worked on. South Korea’s JTBC Studios says it will acquire a majority stake in Wiip.
(Courtesy of Apple)

Creative Artists Agency said Tuesday that it will sell a majority stake in production company Wiip to a South Korean studio.

The Century City talent agency did not disclose financial terms of the deal, which limits CAA’s involvement in production.

The company divested most of its shares in Wiip to settle a long-running dispute with the Writers Guild of America. The union had raised concerns that the agency had a conflict of interest in representing its clients while running a production company. CAA will remain a minority shareholder in Wiip.

South Korea-based JTBC Studios Co. said it believes its investment in Wiip “will deliver an unprecedented experience for a global audience.” The studio has produced dramas including “The World of the Married” and “Itaewon Class.” Wiip has worked on series including Apple TV+'s “Dickinson” and the HBO crime drama “Mare of Easttown.”

“The U.S. market is the heartland of the content business,” Si Kyoo Kim, chief executive of JTBC Studios, said in a statement. “We expect this partnership to bring a significant opportunity for JTBC Studios to make our first step into this dynamic market, for which we have yearned for a long time. We believe that this partnership between outstanding creative talents at JTBC Studios and Wiip will deliver an unprecedented experience for a global audience.”

CAA says it’s reached a deal with the WGA nearly two years after writers fired their agents over concerns about packaging and affiliated production companies.

Wiip was created in 2018 by Paul Lee, a former ABC executive and founder of BBC America, and Matteo Perale, former head of strategy and corporate development at CAA.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to see our partners at JTBC Studios recognize the tremendous creativity coming out of Wiip and significantly increase their investment,” Lee, Wiip’s CEO, said in a statement. “We look forward to doing more business together in the U.S., Korea and the rest of the world to attract the highest level of talent together.”

CAA’s divestment marks a victory for the WGA, which had pushed for major agencies to reduce their stakes in production companies. The union believed those production holdings posed a conflict of interest. WGA had also reached an agreement with talent agency WME for its parent company, Endeavor, to reduce its majority stake in production company Endeavor Content.

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Under WGA’s agreement, CAA and its investor TPG could not own more than 20% of Wiip.

“This transparency will allow the Guild to make sure that CAA is negotiating appropriate deals for writers in these circumstances, and that TPG’s ownership interest is not suppressing the value of writers’ services,” the WGA‘s agency negotiating committee wrote in a letter to WGA members in December.

In addition to reducing their stakes in production companies, CAA and other talent agencies also agreed to end packaging — in which an agency collects fees for pulling together talent for projects — by the end of June 2022.

CAA and JTBC Studios did not immediately respond to requests for comment. WGA spokesman Neal Sacharow wrote in an email that “we won’t know any deal terms until a deal is made.”

The deal is the latest in the media industry that’s aimed at boosting streaming services to compete against Netflix and Disney+.

JTBC has already been producing some of the most-watched shows out of South Korea, including the Netflix hit “Itaewon Class.”

“These shows have found mass audiences outside of South Korea and Asia, and adding Wiip’s premium drama storytelling well positions JTBC as [a] global production powerhouse to feed the hungry demand from the fiercely competitive global streamers,” said Eunice Shin, a partner with global consulting firm Prophet.

Times staff writer Anousha Sakoui contributed to this report.


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