As talent firms undergo rounds of cost-cutting amid the pandemic, Ron Burkle is making a new foray into the representation business with a strategic investment in APA agency.
Financial details weren’t disclosed but the APA deal is described as a major non-equity financial investment from Burkle’s Yucaipa Companies firm. The mid-sized talent agency, founded in 1962, is led by president and CEO Jim Gosnell.
“With so much uncertainty in the entertainment industry, we’re very pleased to be collaborating with a person and a company so in sync with our vision for the future of our business,” said Gosnell. “Ron Burkle and Yucaipa share our philosophy for disciplined growth, and are 100% behind our strategy to expand upon our core business across all media platforms.”
The Beverly Hills-based APA currently has more than 300 staffers among six global offices. On June 30, amid a monthslong film and TV shutdown due to COVID-19, Gosnell disclosed plans for staff furloughs and pay cuts across the firm.
In January, the agency agreed to terms with the Writers Guild of America to once again represent scribes on its roster, as the union has looked to sign up individual firms amid a standoff with majors CAA and WME. During the shutdown APA has gained clients, notably in the lit space. American Gods’ writer-showrunner Anne Kenney and Ballers’ showrunner Evan Reilly are among those that signed with the firm in the past few months.
Burkle, who made his early fortune from acquiring and selling grocery store chains, has a foothold in the representation business through investments in the U.K.-based agency Independent Talent Group, Los Angeles-based firm Independent Sports & Entertainment and Rick Yorn’s LBI Entertainment management firm.
Burkle has long been a Hollywood investor and has frequently bid on or been involved in the sale processes of media through his Yucaipa Companies investment firm. In 2006, he joined with billionaire Eli Broad to launch a joint bid to acquire The Los Angeles Times and Tribune Co. That same year he tried to buy the Knight Ridder newspaper chain and has also tried to buy the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News. In 2007, Burkle partnered with the Dow Jones union to find an alternative buyer for The Wall Street Journal other than Rupert Murdoch, who eventually nabbed the paper for $5 billion.
He also invested in Radar magazine, which shuttered in 2008. A few years later he lost a bid to Penske Media to buy Variety from its then-owner Reed Business Information.
In 2018, Burkle led a group of investors that included a former Obama administration official Maria Contreras-Sweet in a bid to acquire the assets of Harvey Weinstein’s company. While a $500 million deal had been reached, the sale collapsed in early march after Contreras-Sweet stated that “disappointing information about the viability of completing this transaction” had come to light.
Last year, Burkle also backed top Weinstein Co. exec David Glasser’s new film and television production shingle 101 Studios, which aims to make four to six movies a year.
Borys Kit contributed reporting.