Endeavor laughs at UTA's expense

Exodus alters agency landscape

In one of the biggest agent migrations in years, UTA partners Nick Stevens, Lisa Hallerman and Sharon Sheinwold are going to Endeavor.

The trio represent some of UTA's top talent, including comedy A-listers Ben Stiller, Judd Apatow, Owen Wilson and Jack Black as well as Jonah Hill, Patrick Dempsey, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Jason Schwartzman and many of the current cast members on "Saturday Night Live." It is not clear yet which clients will follow them to Endeavor, though Stiller already has said that he'll make the move and Black is expected to do so quickly.

"I think Nick Stevens is a unique entity in this business: an agent with integrity, a point of view and most of all humanity," Stiller said. "He's Jerry Maguire at the end of the movie. I would be with him if he was working out of the Sunglass Hut at the Beverly Center."

The latest defections, coupled with several other recent losses, are a blow to UTA that might well ricochet throughout the delicately balanced agency world.

Stevens, who has been at UTA almost since its beginning in 1991 and who has headed its talent department since 1995, was instrumental in making the agency a comedy powerhouse. Sheinwold, who joined UTA 15 years ago, and Hallerman, who began at UTA 12 years ago as Stevens' assistant, were promoted to partner three years ago.

But Stevens also clashed with the agency's top partners over issues of management style. There were complaints that he wasn't in the office enough, choosing to conduct too much business by BlackBerry, and wasn't enough of a presence at industry events. Stevens, for his part, wanted to focus more on clients than office politics.

While discussions about his role — there were suggestions that he step down from the board — had been going on for some time, they reached a head during the past week as Endeavor reached out to Stevens and his colleagues. Stevens notified UTA of his decision to leave late Friday.

"In the last few years, we began to diverge in our points of view until it became untenable," UTA chairman Jim Berkus said Sunday. "We had a series of conversations with Nick about how we wanted to make fundamental changes in Nick's role and the management of the company. We were prepared for this outcome, and we are comfortable with our decision."

Moving forward, partners Tracey Jacobs and David Guillod will oversee UTA's talent department along with Berkus.

It was unclear Sunday how Stevens, Hallerman and Sheinwold will be integrated into Endeavor's talent department, headed by Brian Swardstrom and Adam Isaacs. Founded in 1995, Endeavor has 24 partners. Two weeks ago, UTA partner Marc Korman moved to Endeavor to become a partner in the agency's television lit department.

In recent weeks, the focus has been on UTA as such clients as Vince Vaughn and Kate Bosworth have departed the agency.

In February, UTA reality agent Jonathan Swaden went to CAA. That move came on the heels of CAA's top reality agent, Michael Camacho, coming to UTA as a partner.

The weekend's defections have only furthered speculation in the intensely competitive agency world that other agents might leave UTA and that the agency, which has 16 partners and nearly 100 agents, could be ripe for a merger or acquisition. One scenario making the rounds has UTA merging with Paradigm.

"We have no plans to merge, no plans to sell," Berkus said. "We plan to grow UTA, to make it stronger, more effective. We're very confident that we have some unbelievably talented young agents in our talent department, and they do share our vision of leadership. We think it's going to be a great opportunity for them to thrive and grow."

Nellie Andreeva contributed to this report.
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