Abrams Artists Agency Breaks Ranks, Offers to Drop Packaging Fees (Exclusive)

Abrams Artists Agency
Abrams Artists Agency

Abrams chairman Adam Bold says, "I'm trying to do the right thing for my clients and employees."

Abrams Artists, a 65-agent talent agency, issued a public offer Monday to abide by key Writers Guild of America terms, telling The Hollywood Reporter that the firm will agree not to seek or accept packaging fees and not to engage in affiliate production if the guild will permit its members to once again be represented by Abrams.

The move will make Abrams the first mid-tier agency to reopen for writing business, if the union assents, and only the second agency of note to reopen its doors to writers after the 30-agent Verve signed the WGA’s new Code of Conduct. Even in just making its offer, Abrams becomes the first firm of significance to break ranks with the Association of Talent Agents, as Verve is not an ATA member.

“It appears that this impasse will take a while to resolve itself,” Abrams chairman Adam Bold told THR, referring to the bitter three-month-old dispute that has seen over 7,000 writers fire their agents under orders from the guild against a backdrop of fruitless negotiations, four separate lawsuits and the threat of further litigation. “Meanwhile, let’s get back to work. I’m trying to do the right thing for my clients and employees.”

Bold said he would call WGA executive director David Young on Tuesday to convey the offer personally. (In March, Abrams had said it would consider sharing packaging fees with its clients; dropping them altogether would mark a considerable concession.)

Bold added that the agency will not sign the guild’s Code, because of objectionable terms such as the requirement to share client confidential information with the WGA even absent the client’s consent and other issues related to agency autonomy. But he said the agency is willing to discuss any issues with the union and will also agree to be bound by any industry-wide agreement the WGA reaches with the ATA. 

The four largest talent agencies — WME, CAA, UTA and ICM Partners — have been steadfast in their refusal to abandon packaging fees and (in the case of the first three) affiliate production. Other mid-tier firms such as Paradigm, APA, Innovative, Gersh and Kaplan-Stahler have likewise not agreed with the WGA's demands. The ATA has offered to share packaging fees with writers; the WGA has declined. And on Friday, the guild told the ATA that any further negotiations would be with individual agencies, not with the ATA, and warned that any collective behavior by the ATA risked antitrust liability.