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In the race to establish a foothold as Hollywood’s No. 4 agency, Gersh is taking private equity cash to fuel expansion in the talent representation space.
Investment firm Crestview Partners has secured a significant stake, 45 percent, in the Beverly Hills-based agency, the companies said on Monday. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but the Gersh partnership will retain a majority stake in the agency that was founded in 1949 by rep Phil Gersh and currently run by his sons, David and Bob Gersh.
As part of the deal, members of Crestview will join a newly formed board of directors at the agency, with David and Bob Gersh also joining the board. (The number of seats is to-be-determined, but the Gersh partners have a majority.) Additionally, Leslie Siebert, the senior managing partner who joined the agency in 1984, has been promoted to co-president of Gersh and will join the board.
With the move, the agency becomes the latest Hollywood talent firm to take on outside financing. Following the merger of Endeavor and William Morris in 2009, the top agencies — WME, Creative Artists Agency and United Talent Agency — have widened the scope of their 10 percenter business with private equity infusions. In the case of WME, and its parent company, Endeavor, that growth helped fuel a public offering in 2021. The majority owner of CAA, private equity investor TPG, went public last year.
Crestview, the financiers that just invested in Gersh, took a significant minority stake in the firm that was formerly part of the Big 4 talent agencies in Hollywood, ICM Partners, in 2019. Crestview’s head of media Brian Cassidy unveiled the investment and described it as a way to accelerate the firm’s expansion. (Less than two years later, ICM agreed to sell itself to its rival, CAA, in a deal valued at $750 million.)
Gersh, which currently has 300 employees and 125 agents, didn’t specify the areas in which it will use the funding to expand its full-service agency to other spaces in the representation landscape. Recent client signings include Tèa Leoni, Bradley Whitford, Diana Lee Inosanto, Derek Luke and Sabrina Impacciatore.
“The opportunity to partner with Crestview will provide us greater flexibility to advance as an institution,” stated David Gersh of the investment. Bob Gersh added that Crestview will bring “meaningful experience and infrastructure to support our continued growth as a client-first agency.”
As far as relative company scale, UTA, which nabbed its latest private equity investment, from EQT Partners, last year, has around 2,000 employees while the combined CAA-ICM has 3,200 staffers. And, like Gersh, other firms, including APA Agency, Verve, Paradigm, Buchwald, A3 Artists Agency and more, see themselves as full-service alternatives to the top three agencies.
“Our core principles have always guided us to provide our clients with more detailed and targeted career opportunities,” Siebert stated of the deal. “That focus on the business of client representation will not change.”
With its stake in ICM realized when it was sold to CAA, the investment in Gersh marks a renewed bet on agencies for Crestview. The New York-based private equity firm also counts investments in VFX firm FC3 and cable operator Wow among its current portfolio. Crestview’s Cassidy added of the deal, “We have long admired Gersh’s unwavering commitment to best-in-class client representation and are honored to become Gersh’s first equity partner in the agency’s long and storied history.”
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